HardReviews 3
by Martin Popoff

SAVAGE BLADE
We Are The Hammer (Pure Steel)

Hard to believe, but this is a power metal band (we'll get to that in a bit) from the interior of British Columbia, and what's more, they're recording for a German label. OK, so man, these guys have got it together, including great graphics and even a vinyl issue of this album. The sound, you ask? Well, this is all wrapped up in that true metal world, rather than power metal per se, meaning the idea is a little more gritty and electric and NWOBHM-infected. Which comes through in Nikko Forsberg's clarion wail, which possesses the spirit of Steve Grimmett of Grim Reaper fame. And further upon spirit, 'Willow Run' finds drummer Eric Hoodicoff (he's also the classic, bluesy-minded Tipton/Downing guitarist; the band is rounded out with bassist Christopher Rand) quoting the opening fill of Accept's 'Balls To The Wall' which in fact, Corrosion Of Conformity has done as well (others?). That one is a Maiden-esque ballad of olden tone (there's weirdly a lot of mellow old Madien on here), and then man, one of the interesting things about this album is that it's not trying to be particularly flashy, with something like '(In) The Eye Of The Storm' also being an unshowy pop metaller like Scorpions. I dunno, call this Bible Of The Devil with a hint of Airbourne's meat and potato vodka-swilling relax of ambition. But therein lies a bit of a problem: when you sort of purposely Kiss-down your Dio-esque trunk of fist, and you're a new young band to boot, some of the songs are going to simply come off as underwritten, underwhelming, and sort of... well, in Savage Blade's case, not hair metal, but at least Lizzy Borden. It's an odd hybrid, and to the band's credit, I doubt many in metal are quite pressing their thumbs down on these specific nerves.
Rating 7.5

HEATHEN
The Evolution Of Chaos (Mascot)

It's neither here nor there that the newly reconstituted version of this below-the-radar but original Bay Area thrash act contains only one original member, guitarist Lee Altus. Forget that, kick back and revel in what they've done here. First off, the original Heathen was a bit weird, sort of commercial, stripped-back thrash, and that spirit makes this record shine. As well, there's a real Ride The Lightning/Master Of Puppets vibe, along with an Exodus viciousness, topped gorgeously by a punchy Master-like production job, namely sharp, hi-fidelity tom sound and heaving low-mid guitars. The writing is a bit too deliberately toward Puppets as well, but man, it's kind of cool to picture this as the second batch of songs to make that uber-classic a double. I mean, it's not hard to picture, and the imitation is such a fresh idea, I welcome rather than am repelled by it. The spirit of Cliff Burton is all over this melodically, as is that of Maiden down a twin lead pathway, but really this is so classic Metallica-esque (check out 'Undone' or 'No Stone Unturned', the latter pretty much 'For Whom The Bell Tolls' but, er, yes, better), that you can't help thank Heathen for adding to the best part of the Metallica catalogue, with a cheeky 'what if?', and on the side, fleshing out the classic Exodus canon as well.
Rating 8

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