Candles, Toilets & Religious Metaphors, A Three Times Royal Analysis: By M H Thomson. FFO:Modern Metal Brilliance!!

 Candles, Toilets & Religious Metaphors, A Three Times Royal Analysis:

 By M H Thomson

18th of November 2022

 Maintaining any intimate long-distance relationship is fraught with complexity at the best of times but initiating one in the midst of a global pandemic would seem to most, to be a logistical fool's errand. Alas, even the fallout from a plague as demoralising as COVID-19 fails miserably as a deterrent for some; namely my friend and vocal coach Iris Goessens and her partner Mayson Ivy. Split between their respective homes of Maastricht, Netherlands and Los Angeles, California. This budding relationship along with other untold internal tensions brewing between the members of Spoil Engine gave Iris reason enough to part ways with them. This announcement coming mere months after the apparent (although yet to be officially confirmed) departure of Spoil Engine’s longtime drummer Matthijs Quaars, as evidenced by their last few gigs with Iris, where they have been sporting a different bloke on the drums.

Iris’s exit from Spoil Engine left her and Mayson free to pursue another musical endeavour, enter Three Times Royal or 3XR for short. The lively Los Angeles-based metalcore outfit consists of Iris on vocals, Mayson on bass guitar and lead guitarist Willa Ashley. A drum machine rounding out the studio lineup, with a local Beneluxian session drummer accompanying them onstage for their recent debut concert in Torhout, Belgium.

 The group have so far released two songs as stand-alone singles “Do You Know What It’s Like?” and “Deathbells”. Whether this trend of single releases endures or a full-length album soon materialises as yet remains to be seen.

The first of these two songs to see a release and accompanying music video is “Do You Know What It’s Like?” and it serves as a spectacular first taste of what this band can do. The track opens with a bang, an uneasy droning guitar pedalling between two dissonant notes which gets quickly cut off by a simple but effective drum fill. This fill leads the listener straight into the main riff, a punchy groove reminiscent of an early Lamb Of God song but at a slightly more relaxed tempo. Iris’s vocals then kick in with all the rasp and brutality we’ve come to expect from her. The main vocal line effortlessly pierces through the cacophonous reverberations of the multi-layered backing vocals that lie swirling around in the undergrowth of the vocal mix. The lyrics themselves posit the titular question with regard to the fears and regrets associated with feelings of perceived self-worthlessness and your ability to pick yourself back up. The small handful of religious references peppered throughout really drives this point home. Saying in not so many words, if god can’t help you pull through then just go for it without god's help. Thus the line “Lily’s coming out tonight” is a reference to Lilith, the first wife of Adam, a symbol of feminist independence in Abrahamic religious folklore.

The main riff insistently plods along beneath the verses without ever really tiring, a testament to the songwriting prowess of its author(s). The pre-chorus changes things up slightly, a choppy synthesiser thieving the main riff from the guitars, this marginally drops the intensity whilst simultaneously building it up in anticipation of the chorus drop. The chorus itself brings with it the first real onslaught of clean vocals and a much straighter chord progression than the minor blues groove of the song’s primary riff. This works as a nice change of pace that endures just long enough to afford the listener a reprieve before dropping back into the next set of verses. Incidentally, the second set of verses come screeching in at full steam, the mix of the returning main riff and Iris’s continued determination to scream her tits off with the same potency as the peak of the chorus makes for a diabolical combination.

After the second round of verses and a chorus, the track moves into a breakdown of sorts, the predominant features of which consist of another fun, choppy synth line and Willa’s rousing but all too brief lead guitar break. Unfortunately, both of these elements get comprehensively buried by the not-so-dulcet tones of Mayson’s thunderous and deafening bass guitar. This however is not necessarily unwelcome, as the over-the-top distortion of the bass tone affords the latter portion of the song some wicked industrial overtones. This section also concludes the track after furnishing us with one final rendition of the chorus.

The music video for “Do You Know What It’s Like?” is a master stroke of ominous vibes and imagery befitting of the piece's tone. Swathes of smokey blood-red mood lighting slicing through dark empty spaces, not dissimilar to the sparse lighting of a dive bar stage. The scenes of Iris drowsily shifting around in the bathtub and screaming into a mirror in front of a line of candles as if she’s performing some sort of satanic seance really sells the desperation of the ambiance. Although the illusion rather fell apart when she informed me that the “candelabra” in said scene is actually the cistern of her toilet. Mayson’s almost silhouette-like appearance contrasts nicely with Willa’s luminous pink hair standing out amongst the smoke as they stand riffing away in the maroon haze. The videos smattering of stock photography is smartly utilised as it more often than not mirrors a coinciding lyric. One such example being the line “To hide under your bed, ‘cause of a knock at the door” being supplemented by shots of an iron bed frame and then a Victorian-era doorknob. Altogether a very engaging video that's truly a riot (pardon the Spoil Engine pun) to watch.

The band’s second offering “Deathbells” carries on with the swing and driving groove of their previous outing but this time their more metalcore-focused influences are on full display. The introductory riff sounds like DevilDriver attempting to cover a Parkway Drive song in the best way possible. The band wastes little time settling into the first verse, letting the last line hang over a sudden stoppage before barging into the first chorus. This first chorus lays the foundations of the eponymous line. This is then expanded upon in the second chorus with the introduction of interlaced call-and-response vocal parts, adding the lines “I’m going blind by the lies inside of me” and “Please know I’ve tried to fight this instability” underneath the main chorus line. The verse betwixt the two choruses thus cleverly acts concurrently as both a pre and post-chorus of sorts, although it reveals itself to be a post-chorus proper the second time around.

“Deathbells” lyrics appear to be about the cyclical pattern of feeling like shit, turning to a vice (be it drugs, alcohol, whatever) to numb the pain, only to have the overindulgence in said vice make you feel worse than you did before, and the inevitable repetition of this feat by not learning from past mistakes. This sentiment is perfectly captured by the first few lines of the opening verse “Oh not again, I’ve flushed my face down the drain, the cure you recommended turned its back on me”. Whether done deliberately or simply by coincidence, this track continues the so far 100% strike rate of religious metaphors in 3XR songs as the tracks' namesake deathbells are just that. This time a reference to the tolling of church bells to signal someone’s passing or the commencement of a funeral service.

Whilst itself never feeling like a rip off, the tracks extensive mid-song breakdown does share some time-honoured metalcore tropes I find particularly redolent of early 2010’s Asking Alexandria (AA) songs. Most notably the section that gradually strips itself back to just a synth line running over an ad hoc snare drum roll, the vocals running amok over the top. The following segment (“She’s heard the rumours of me” etc) too, mimics another common AA practice of having a slightly more mournful but angelic sounding run of clean vocals assisting in the build-up to the return of a heavier riff; in this case the main verse riff. Iris’s seemingly more Danny Worsnop-esque delivery of these clean vocal parts only adds to the effect. However, the telephonic vocal distortion present throughout this section may be shouldering quite a bit of the blame for this. This all works to the song's advantage as this extended breakdown prepares the listener perfectly for the reprise of yet another breakdown-like feel present in the final variation of the chorus that serves as the song’s outro. Again, this is all pulled off tastefully without ever tiring any one riff to the point of redundancy, consequently, the end result is a bloody belter of a track.

All told, across their oh-so-extensive discography of two fucking songs, I feel “Deathbells” compliments “Do You Know What It’s Like?” nicely whilst also sitting as a great counterpoint in its overall presentation. Where “Deathbells” focuses its emotional core more on the remorseful side of things, “Do You Know What It’s Like?” tends to lean more into aggression with its “fuck it, let's just go for it” kind of attitude.

 Although Three Times Royal is only just starting out with these first two singles I already can’t wait to hear more from them. My perhaps ever so slightly biased opinion of them aside, I really cannot urge you enough to check them out as I reckon they are unquestionably one of the more promising modern metal acts to keep an eye on and ear out for going forward.  

Watch/Listen to both of these and support this excellent band: