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Despite the aversion to anything remotely smacking of irony, insincerity or hipsterism, there's still a lot of animosity in the current metal scene towards what is often referred to as "cheesy". Bring the big hooks, but hey, don't make them too big. Production? Bright and clear, sure, but watch it: you don't want to end up sounding like Dokken, right?

Wrong.

Dokken is awesome. And I hate to burst your black bubbles, scene kids, but most of your underground heroes feel the same way. If you listen to the old guard when they talk about their favorites, Twisted Sister and Cinderella are going to come up way more often than dubbed black metal demos from who knows where.

Sabbath Highway might be a debut EP, but the members of The Watchers are longtime vets of the San Francisco heavy music scene, and it shows. This is heavy rock that filled arenas in the days of yore, when mysterious long-haired guitar-slinging libertines ruled the world. "Sabbath Highway" kicks off with a (who would have guessed?) classic Iommi riff straight from the Dio era, while vocalist Tim Narducci shows off an impressive range and commanding presence, sounding not unlike fellow Ripple alumni Dru Brinkerhoff (Stone Axe). The ambient "Requiem Intro" does not actually lead into a song called "Requiem"; intentional or not, that's pretty funny. "Call The Priest" slows things down and gives guitarist Jeremy Von Eppic an opportunity to show off his impressive lead skills, while the rhythm section - bassist Cornbread (SpiralArms) and drummer Carter Kennedy (Orchid) - goes into full Led Zeppelin "loose but tight" mode.

"Today" is a slight misstep, if only because it doesn't have the same impressive hooks of the preceding songs. It still boasts a great central riff and Sabbath Highway's best solo. That leads to closer "Just A Needle", which might be the most groove-laden rock song of 2016. Alice In Chains swagger, Paul Rodgers-inspired vocal lines and a big anthemic chorus combine to give listeners what is hopefully a hint at what future Watchers material might entail. Every song hits hard and embodies what rock and metal should be: beholden to no one. If you tend to raise fists and beers more often than you raise concerns about "the scene", this one's for you.

Vocalist Tim Narducci had this to say about the EP:

The Sabbath Highway EP was written in short a period of time capturing the excitement and quick momentum of the band’s beginnings. The EP is purely an introduction of the band and taste of what's to come. Ripple Music was our first choice for a label with The Watchers. Great people, great roster… We're excited to see where this venture takes us.

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Sabbath Highway is out on 11/4 via Ripple Music. Order it here. Follow The Watchers on Facebook.

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