Thursday, September 13, 2012

3 Inches of Blood - Long Live Heavy Metal (2012)

3 Inches of Blood seem to get a lot of undeserved flak from the more stalwart, serious metal heads in this world, due perhaps to their undying devotion to magnifying the more over the top archetypes and stereotypes that have, for better or worse, defined the genre since its inception. Yes, they play heavy metal, and apparently they want you to know that. And while the title to this, their 5th record, is face-palmingly derivative, it's a step up from the floundering Here Waits Thy Doom, and an unwaveringly solid album of infectious anthems, even if it falls short of the glory the band captured and raucously incited just a few short years ago.

Indeed, I make no secret of my love for Advance and Vanquish, an explosive doomsday riff-gasm packed to the core with memorability and bombast, and I still consider it a masterpiece of modern heavy metal. It's successor, Fire Up the Blades, was a close second, but 2009's Here Waits Thy Doom seemed sparse and lacking in comparison, with a much lower overall average of memorable riffs and choruses. While Long Live Heavy Metal is still a few fabulous riffs per square foot short of the gold, it's still a fun, aggressively melodic record full of heart, and deserves a place in your collection.

The inability to conjure the spirit of their most essential material is not so surprising when one considers that none of the musicians from Advance and Vanquish remain, with even half the vocal talent having since departed. However, when the headbanging energy of Metal Woman rips out of the gate, it becomes clear that the band has found some re-invigoration, and the kinetic energy initially felt continues to charge the entirety of the album's 53 minute length. From the (Halford inspired?) moshing aggression of Leather Lord, to the spine-tingling Ronnie James Dio tribute Look Out, through the winding, epic, slicing riffs of 4000 Torches and beyond, this collection of tracks veritably oozes memorability, with the distinctly sweet ability to ingrain themselves in your mind almost instantly, featuring hooks that dig deep and refuse to relent for days to come.

Guitarist Justin Hagberg continues his onslaught of harsh vocals in support of the shrill falsetto's of Cam Pipes, and the man has seemingly grown accustomed to the style, as the vocal dichotomy continues to work in the bands favor. Those who dislike the King Diamond meets Rob Halford meets a kick to the plums vocals of Pipes will not be won over here, but to the man's credit, he has not lost an iota of his flabbergasting range or inherent hilarity. I've always enjoyed his outrageous style, and I think if their detractors didn't take themselves so damn seriously, they'd have a lot better time, not only with 3IoB, but with life in general. And that's what Long Live Heavy Metal is all about, in the end; a solid, fun release to counterbalance the posturing brutality and inherent emotional gravity of the scene in general. It's content to drink a beer and kick your ass, and really, what more can you ask for?

In fact, I have little complaint at all with Long Live Heavy Metal (beyond its continuously irksome title), and the only downside I can legitimately point to is that no matter how searing its riffs, how sticky its swelling choruses end up being in the walls of my memory, I still must inevitably compare it to Advance and Vanquish, a duel it simply cannot win. However, unlike many other bands that dwell so deeply in their own shadow that anything else is inevitably a flash-in-the-pan, a fling, or a caricature, I have a feeling I'll be spinning this one for at least a few more years. It may not be in my cycle for life, like its 2004 predecessor, but Long Live is a strong, fun, vibrant effort, featuring the band once again on the ascent, and I dare to dream they may one day again reach the summit with another classic release. Until then, though, this will more than suffice, as 3 Inches of Blood have picked themselves up by their boot-straps and once again rekindled the torch of balls-out, spirit-blazing metal for 2012, with a gleam in their eyes and axe in hand.

8.5 / 10 - Honour Satisfied