Monday, October 24, 2011

Heathen Hoof - Rock Crusader

Genre: Heavy Metal
Country: Finland
Year: 2011
Label: Metal Warning

Finland's Heathen Hoof is definitely a Very Cool Band. They mix influences from early NWOBHM, classic early-80s American heavy metal, and 70s hard rock to arrive at a timeless sound that really delivers. I was a big fan of their The Occult Sessions EP, so when their full-length dropped I was all smiles. This is really just a good, solid, unpretentious album brimming with honesty and a vibe that these guys really, really love rock 'n' roll and classic heavy metal. This album is almost too short to be a full-length, clocking in at barely over a half hour, and I wish it were longer because this is great music. The guitars have a kind of low-gain crunch to them, and the vocals are a gritty, throaty snarl that bring to mind bands like Tank or Motörhead. The songs in general are pretty much a timewarp back thirty years, but not in a hackneyed or smug way. It's 100% honest and heartfelt, like these guys are writing music like this because they couldn't imagine writing anything else, not because they're riding some kind of 'retro' trend. I feel like this band is probably best experienced live - there's just a kind of electric energy to it that seems like it would truly come to life in a live setting. Regardless, this album kicks ass and you'd do well to check it out. Righteous.

For fans of Tank, Metal Inquisitor, Motörhead, and Desolation Angels.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bolt Thrower - Honour Valour Pride

Genre: Death Metal
Country: United Kingdom
Year: 2001
Label: Metal Blade Records

Big, chunky, muscular death metal from the UK is the order of the day. These Brits truly worship The Riff. That's what Bolt Thrower is all about. This isn't technical or 'brutal' stuff; rather, Bolt Thrower chooses to steamroll over your blasted corpse with the iron weight of a Leman Russ Demolisher. Every single song on this album has these huge, monstrous riffs that rumble like the thunder of gauss-cannon fire, absolutely annihilating everything in their path. Due to their being one of the most consistent and long-lived death metal bands kicking, it's tough to choose a favourite Bolt Thrower album, but Honour Valour Pride would definitely be a top contender were I forced to do so. I just love the pummeling feel to the entire ordeal, the music really feels like the killer Warhammer-themed Games Workshop cover artwork. These guys (and gal) are masters at their craft, and will always be one of the coolest death metal bands in existence. If you're looking for a heavier-than-lead death metal album that relies on mid-paced anvil-crushing riffs to deliver the mortal blow, look no further. Crushing.

For fans of Benediction, Runemagick, Unleashed, and Cianide.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Metal Inquisitor - Doomsday for the Heretic

Genre: Heavy Metal
Country: Germany
Year: 2008
Label: Hellion Records

I cannot begin to tell you just how fucking hard this album rocks. Everything about Doomsday for the Heretic is a metal fan's dream come true: killer riffs, awesome vocals, cool lyrics - these Germans have it all. There is absolutely no bullshit to be found here, just pure heavy metal played the way it was meant to be played. Every chorus is memorable, every riff demands your head to bang until you snap your neck, every solo gives you no choice but to break every string on your air guitar. The guitar tone is perfect, low gain but crunchy so every note cuts through the mix like a Visigoth's sword through a Roman's chest, with a full-sounding production that sounds absolutely killer when played very, very loud. El Rojo's vocals give me a kind of Manilla Road/Leather Nunn vibe, but he definitely has his own thing going on, and he really adds a cool element to the music. It should also be pointed out that there is nothing 'modern' to be found here - this is absolutely, heavy-handedly traditional - but the music feels very honest and alive. There is nothing contrived or stale-feeling about Metal Inquisitor's approach; these guys clearly live and breathe heavy metal, and they are irrefutably making a relevant contribution to the genre. Any fan of true heavy metal cannot afford to miss out on these guys. Mandatory.

For fans of Leather Nunn, Motörhead, Manilla Road, and Judas Priest.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Root - The Temple in the Underworld

Genre: Unclassifiable (Epic Black/Doom Metal?)
Country: Czech Republic
Year: 1992
Label: Monitor

Another absolute favourite of mine, Root is a Czech band whose genre is nearly impossible to pin down in a concise fashion. At their inception, they were a first-wave black metal band, having formed in 1987. Accordingly, their early output had a kind of Venom/Celtic Frost/early Bathory vibe, but as time went on, their sound evolved into something utterly unique and entirely their own. This, their second proper full-length, is my favourite album from their diverse discography. As previously stated, it is really difficult to describe the music at hand. I suppose I'd pin it somewhere in some kind of epic black/doom/death metal realm, but that doesn't even begin to do it justice. It really just has to be experienced first-hand. Temple in the Underworld is definitely an album that you should set aside some close-listening time for, as there is a lot going on here and it's really worth giving it your undivided attention. The vocals of the mighty Big Boss are, as with most Root albums, the most immediately memorable part of the band's sound. He issues forth a clean, resonant tenor as well as strange, throaty growls and everything in between, and listening to his charismatic delivery is truly a treat. Nobody - and I mean nobody - sounds like Big Boss. The moment he starts singing, there is no question which band you're listening to. But I don't want my enthusiasm for his vocals to overshadow the absolutely killer music on display here. Guitarist Petr "Blackie" Hošek is a true artisan at his craft, imbuing the songs with spectacularly imaginative riffs and structures. (He has, unfortunately, departed from the band, and his absence is definitely apparent in the post-Blackie material.) The battery is handled by Evil, and his drumming displays an enormous amount of skill and creativity. There's always cool cymbal work or intricate fills going on, and it really keeps things interesting in the rhythm section. There is a deeply pervasive atmosphere to this album, lending the entire length a very mysterious, arcane feel. The reverb-drenched production actually has a surprisingly professional edge to it, but it is by no means 'over-produced' or plastic sounding - it's full and heavy without sacrificing the organic feel this kind of music demands. This is a top-notch album played by amazing musicians. Easily one of the coolest extreme metal recordings ever put to wax.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wolf - Edge of the World

Country: United Kingdom
Year: 1984
Label: Mausoleum Records

Wolf formed under the moniker Leviathan in 1977, later changing their name to Black Axe, and finally being persuaded by their record label to settle on the name Wolf. Under this name, they released Edge of the World, their only full-length album, and one of the most epic, haunting, powerful albums ever to emerge from the NWOBHM. The songs on this record really demand your attention thanks to the spectacular vocal performance by Chris English. He has just the right amount of grit for this style of music, and he commands a true master's knack for absolutely killer melodies that stick with you long after the album ends. Every single time I spin this, the choruses to 'Highway Rider' and 'Shock Treatment' are inevitably stuck in my head for the next couple days. Unlike many of their British peers at the time, Wolf had a bit of a melancholy edge to them that is really difficult to pinpoint in words, but it is definitely there, and it really gives Wolf something unique. That's not to say these boys didn't know how to rock - there are blues riffs in spades with swagger to spare, but some of the songs just have a kind of somber, epic vibe to them, which is part of what makes Edge of the World so great. If you're a fan of NWOBHM, or just a fan of sincere, passionately-written music with unforgettable vocal hooks in general, this album is absolutely essential listening. A tragically forgotten classic.

For fans of Witch Cross, Spartan Warrior, Blackmayne, and Grim Reaper.