The long gap between the two Priestess albums — 2005’s Hello Master and the just-released-in-the-U.S. Prior to the Fire — is only partially the band’s doing. The Montreal-based Hard Rock quartet, formed in 2003 by vocalist/guitarist Mikey Heppner when his Dropouts bandmates abandoned him to form The Stills, committed themselves to a relentless touring schedule after Hello Master’s release, supporting the likes of Megadeth, Motorhead, Black Label Society, Mastodon and Dinosaur Jr. and amazingly finding common ground among them all.
Priestess’ extended road grind lasted for two and a half years allowing them little time to develop new material. When they did turn out new songs, the ears at RCA Records were less than enthusiastic. Still, the band’s schedule opened, the label relented, producer Dave Schiffman was installed and Prior to the Fire was recorded two years ago.
Unfortunately, RCA decided Priestess hadn’t invested the album with a hit single and suggested they continue writing. The band refused, insisting they had made the record they wanted to make. Ultimately, Priestess and RCA parted company, but the label allowed the band to retain the album (proof, perhaps, of their total lack of confidence in it) and the band wound up writing and recording new songs for the eventual release of Prior to the Fire (issued by indie imprint TeePee).
While Priestess’ sophomore album displays a palpable reduction in the populist melodicism of Hello Master, there is an equally tangible feeling of rejuvenation and evolution within Prior to the Fire. All things considered, the foursome (Heppner, bassist Mike Dyball, vocalist/guitarist Dan Watchorn, vocalist/drummer Vince Nudo) could conceivably count Prior to the Fire as their third album and, given the time since its recording, it’s fair to assume the band will have a few even newer songs in the set for their current tour.
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