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My first introduction to 3 Inches Of Blood was their 3rd album, Fire Up The Blades, which I bought after giving one of its reviews (from the Aggressive Tendencies section of Canada’s arts monthly, Exclaim!) a cursory glance and telling myself: “Cool name, looks old-school enough and hey, they’re Canadian!”. At first listen, I was torn between the psychotic vocal duo comprised of Cam Pipes and Jaime Hooper and the no-nonsense tone and depth of the guitar riffs, notably on the first two songs, “Night Marauders” and “The Goatrider’s Horde”. For some reason, they brought to mind the evil intensity associated with bands such as Exodus and Metal Church. As I listened closer, my metal-deprived brain at the time clued in to the band’s integrity and goal, which is to pummel the listener with their metal warrior disposition and solid composition skills.
First of all, I think I put my foot in my mouth when I wrote in my review of Advance & Vanquish that 3IOB is mainly a guitar band. This is certainly not the case with Fire up the Blades. Holy cow! I don’t know where they found their new drummer, Alexei Rodriguez, but they really compounded their sound by including him in the line-up. In addition to his blast beats and cascading fills, he throws in some truly awesome nuggets throughout the album. His chiming cymbal work- which is something rarely heard- at the beginning of “The Goatrider’s Horde” and “Demon’s Blade” provides a game changing and welcome effect, propelling the songs straight into the listener’s cerebral cortex, while his sparse use of the cowbell on “The Great Hall Of Feasting” and the opening to “Assassins Of The Light” (this is followed by the unmistakable sound of a beer can being popped open) adds a loose, campy touch to those particular tracks. As for the new bassist, Nick Cates, his work here could be compared to the finishing coat of varnish one would apply to some masterly crafted wood work. It totally solidifies Justin Hagberg and Shane Clark’s guitar playing while keeping a respectable distance and adding a whole new dimension to the music. I really dig his playing on “Forest King”, particularly when he sets the stage for the song’s peak somewhere in the middle, slightly reminiscent of Geezer Butler on the song “Heaven and Hell”, right before the solo section. When you listen to Fire up the Blades, make sure to crank the bass all the way in order to experience it to the fullest.
Another feature the band has included this time around is some Deep Purple style keyboard work on “Trial of Champions” and “God of the Cold White Silence”. As well as being an accomplished guitar player, Justin Hagberg has quite a knack for the keys and proves how the conservative usage of such an instrument can produce an embellished and nostalgic effect as opposed to a cheesy and ill-placed hindrance. Also, I find their choice of having “Trial Of Champions” immediately follow “The Goatrider’s Horde” without missing a beat an excellent move, as its” humor-in-a-jugular-vein” style riff refreshingly counters the jarring balls to the wall feeling that previous track conveys. While I can imagine die-hard 3IOB devotees fighting over the rights to one day cover “The Goatrider’s Horde” (it’s a staple, that’s for sure), “Trial of Champions” is more laid back and cheerful but still a killer song in its own right. I’d like to add to this the fact the single for this last song is a must-have as well, as their cover of Lucifer’s Friend’s “In The Time Of Job When Mammon Was A Yippie” must be heard in order to be believed. It’s probably one of the most esoteric but appropriately chosen 70s songs for a cover by a metal band ever. In any case, it’s by far the best cover they’ve ever done. Along with "Key To Oblivion", they should have included it on the standard CD.
Evidently, the line-up is filled with new members except for vocalists Cam Pipes and Jaime Hooper (who would leave the band shortly after this release due to damaged vocal chords). Justin Hagberg and Shane Clark keep the 3IOB flag raised high, doing an exceptional job replacing Bobby Froese and Sunny Dhak, who left to pursue business interests. Fire up the Blades showcases them at their peak and establishes them as devout metal troopers on this, the band’s finest hour. As for Pipes and Hooper, they continue to tag team as fire and ice, the former passionately leading the charge while the latter provides a backdrop of shrill, piercing screams with the same enthusiasm of a banshee. The lyrical themes are similar to those found on Advance and Vanquish: medieval battle oriented intermixed with a touch of the occult (“Demon’s Blade”, “Black Spire”) and even Norse as well as Greek mythology (“The Great Hall of Feasting” and “The Hydra’s Teeth”, respectively. The instrumentals “Through the Horned Gate” and “Rejoice in the Fire of Man’s Demise”, though not thoroughly exceptional, serve their purpose to a tee as the album’s opening and closing numbers. There is one song, “Infinite Legions”, which sounds slightly out of place as it borders more on the “thrash/ death metal” side of the fence, but is still a mighty track which displays a bit of experimentation on their behalf.
By now, you’re probably wondering: “OK all of the above is nice and all but what really warrants this release getting a perfect score?” To put it simply, riffs, riffs, and more riffs. The rhythm guitar playing on Fire up the Blades is extremely innovative, ever inter-changing, furiously head banging, awe inspiring, fist-pumping, endorphin releasing, addictive beyond words, and then some. Every single riff is out of this World! Man, where do I start? Well, take the intro to “The Hydra’s Teeth” for instance. To this day, it is one of my favorite riffs ever, to the point that I literally feel robbed when the song evolves and only sparsely repeats itself. The whole song is a masterpiece, but that first riff? Unbelievable! “Assassins of the Light” is pretty groovy too and features a couple stand-out solos that will leave you clamoring for more. I must say the riffs outshine the solos on this release, even if the lead playing is highly commendable and flies all over the place at breakneck speed. There’s a bit of Kirk Hammett here, a bit of Chris Poland there, perhaps a touch of Machine Head’s Logan Mader in between. The riffs, however, are something to behold. If you’re a guitarist, you’ll likely run and grab your axe so you can get to work on reproducing their tasty fretwork.
All the songs on the album are incredible just played on their own and “Night Marauders” “The Goatrider’s Horde” and “Demon’s Blade” should be included in any metal mix traded among friends. The raw power and energy of these track is overpowering to say the least. They blow me away every time. I especially love the way the guitars sustain the chorus on “The Goatrider’s Horde” when Cam Pipes leads the fray:
"Impervious to fire/ Impervious to steel/ Merciless vengeance/ Dealt by their strike". I even discerned a bit of reverb/feedback work in there that I hadn’t noticed before.
Another key track any aspiring metal shredder should definitely take the time to check out is “Forest King”. While it’s not as complex or ahead of the pack as their other songs, it sounds great, has wicked dynamics and is instantly endearing when you first hear it. I might add it’s also given me a new found respect for trees, as the song itself reaches towering heights proportional to its majestic and leviathan sized protagonists. Again, this review wouldn’t be complete without a deep bow to “Black Spire”, with its razor sharp layout and dark unholy undertones. Though I’ve seen 3IOB play five times, I was crestfallen every time by the omission of this number from their set. If anyone out there has ever heard them play it live, I’d love to hear about it. When talking about potential covers of their material, “Demon’s Blade” is a sure pick (along with the aforementioned “Night Marauders” and “The Goatrider’s Horde”) as it embodies everything I love about this brand of heavy metal: crisp, elaborate song structures and occult/ battle related themes while the sum of all contributors (vocalist(s), guitarist(s), drummer and bassist) delivers a fun, glorious and enriching listening experience.
If you’re unfamiliar with 3 Inches of Blood, drop everything you’re doing right now and find a way to assault your senses with this release. Forget about all that “power metal” crap you may have heard concerning them. This is one purely true and through heavy metal band you’ll be telling your grand kids about. Take my word for it!
After Advance and Vanquish, 3 Inches of Blood went through a bit of a lineup change. Three years later they release Fire Up the Blades and what a follow up it is! Pretty much everything on this album is better than the first. Now, on guitars are Justin Hagberg and Shane Clark. The guitar work was great on Advance and Vanquish, but now it seems that songs are a lot heavier and the solos, more impressive. The ending solo to “Night Marauders” really shows off the new talent.
Most of the songs are very well put together. “Trial of Champions” has a great piano and chorus piece making it a song to constantly have on repeat. The drumming of Alexei Rodriguez really shines in this song and proves the lineup change really benefited the band. “God of the Cold White Silence” is another song with examples of amazing guitar chops. Not in turn of impressiveness, but the overall song writing on this album is fantastic. It makes me feel that I am in battle and that's exactly what I want from a heavy metal album. I'd even say a tune like “Forest King”, mainly that bass line, makes me think I am listening to a Dio song. That is in no way a negative aspect either as it is fitting for this genre.
But, as the album goes to the head-ripping “Demon's Blade” it shows that this isn't a Dio record. 3 Inches of Blood was one of the best modern day heavy metal bands. True Heavy Metal in and out, 3IoB barely repeats songs on their albums. Each tune sounds completely different from the previous one. “The Great Hall of Feasting” is a fun romp that sounds nothing like the bands previous songs on Fire Up the Blades. Cam Pipes sings perfectly to the beat of the tune and it just screams “throwback” to the genre.
Alexei shows off some death-metal style drumming in “Infinite Legions” and harsh vocalist Jamie Hooper really sounds like he's pushing his voice to the limit. Unfortunately, this is where the album should have ended as I think 13 songs is a lot. “Assassins of the Light” is a great song, but doesn't bring anything new to the table for the album. It keeps up with the album's theme, but I think it could have been left out personally. “Black Spire” is very heavy and brings a surprise or two near the end of the album. That solo is so well done and definitely is a personal favorite on Fire Up the Blades. “The Hydra's Teeth” once again keeps up with the theme of the album, but I also feel could have been left out. Finally, we come to “Rejoice in the Fires of Man's Demise”, a great little minute-and-a-half instrumental song that ties the album up perfectly.
Fire Up the Blades is a fantastic album. It takes elements of Advance and Vanquish and makes them better. The lineup changes were needed to make an album like this. Everything from the bass, to the drumming and even the guitar work is far more impressive. The song writing is still unique and fun. All this talk of battles, steel and evil makes me think I am in a battle. I feel like if I would look up the term Heavy Metal in the dictionary, 3IoB would be up there among with the greats.
Songs I'd recommend: “Night Marauders”, “The Goatrider's Horde”, “Trial of Champions”, “Demon's Blade”, “Infinite Legions”, “Black Spire”.
When first being introduced to the popular power metal band on the western side of the Atlantic known as 3 Inches Of Blood, I took the typical road a fan of old school metal takes and went back to the earliest material. Consequently, I was initially perplexed at the naysayers who were throwing around terms like metalcore and modern crap when describing this band’s material. However, there is always more to such assertions when they are rampant amongst otherwise reliable sources, and that proved to be the case with regards to the album that this band is generally known for, which followed what is likewise considered their magnum opus in “Advance And Vanquish”.
For all intents and purposes, there isn’t much that separates “Fire Up The Blades” from previous endeavors from a stylistic standpoint, as this band has tended towards religious consistency in their own little old meets new niche. But the alien influence of the nu-metal scourge that is Slipknot somehow managed to worm its way into an otherwise decent outfit (likely at the behest of corporate money counters at Roadrunner) and morph into a musically solid, but processed beyond clear recognition version of its former self. I speak namely of the metal wannabe poseur minus his usual ridiculous costume in Joey Jordison, the most disgustingly overrated of drummers ever to be lionized by the masses of asses. His fingerprints are all over the shoddy drum production, not to mention that his pretentious pseudo-skills were put to use on some of these songs. To put it plainly, the old school character of the drum sound on the previous albums has been swapped out for an overloud, obnoxiously popping and cymbal heavy sound that should never be mixed with quality NWOBHM riff work.
The problems with this album are localized to the production and mixing job, but they extend to every observable facet of the arrangement. In addition to a drum sound that clashes with the album stylistically, the vocal sound has also been jacked up to the point of being overbearing, not to mention that the processed character of both the King Diamond emulations and the Gothenburg shouts paint yet another layer of modern pseudo-metal overtop what is ultimately a fairly decent homage to the early 80s wrapped up in a slightly newer Tolkien oriented package. It’s difficult to picture little Frodo Baggins and his fellowship of warriors parading around in the goofy horror movie outtake costumes that Jordison’s band normally parades around in, but that’s what I end up doing every time he rides that damn crash cymbal and takes the wind out of the riffs’ sails like the usual nu-metal dumbass should.
The truly unfortunate thing about all of this is that there are a few really good songs on here that rival the material the band has been putting out since 2001. “Night Marauders” throws some killer gallop riffs at lightning speed and transitions through some melodic thrashing brilliance, clearly channeling an impressive array of influences from Satan to Exodus. “Forest King” brings down the Maiden worship something fierce, conjuring up images of “The Trooper” and “Purgatory” and revamping them with a busier set of changeups. And even an outright party song by the name of “Great Hall Of Feasting” that brings a bit of cowbell and Accept influences into the mix can’t help but give the ears a good time. There’s a lot about the album to like, it’s just that it would be so much better if the damned drums would back off a bit and if Cam’s wails didn’t sound so artificially smooth.
So, I think I understand all the seemingly random references to this band as being the token metalcore or nu-metal in the current power metal scene, though I think it is still hyperbolic when considering the band’s entire catalog. This album isn’t so much a total throwaway, but it gets so hampered by the production trappings associated with Jordison’s other project that it taints my good fun (and probably a lot of others who like this band and aren’t into homeboy metal) whenever I hear it. If you must shop for this, definitely do it with the appropriate discount price in mind.
I had a bit of a fanboy phase with Canada's 3 Inches of Blood when I first heard a demo version of Goatrider's Horde on some shitty Roadrunner compilation back September of 2006. Something about the old school riffage with 2 very different vocalists struck a chord within me that made me go apeshit about them. I quickly purchased Advance and Vanquish and was not disappointed. Virtually every song had something memorable about it and could easily be recalled after hearing it a very scant number of times. To me, 3 Inches of Blood was well on their way to being kings of the mountain if they kept this up.
Unfortunately, it seems like their heavy metal Viagra only lasts for one album. They aren't quite flaccid yet, but they're on the way down with this one. One problem with Fire Up The Blades is the excess of tracks. Sure, the previous album had 13, and this one only technically has 12 full songs, but they could have cut it down to 9 or 10 and not lost anything. The last few songs of the album, particularly "The Hydra's Teeth" and "Black Spire", run together as nothing but pointless filler at the end of an otherwise good album. "Forest King" could have been cut as well. You can tell it was supposed to be a live song, but it doesn't translate very well over to the record.
The real problem though, is Joey Jordison. What he's doing here, I'll never fucking know. I hate to show my nerdy side here, but he's fast becoming the Revolver fucking Ocelot of metal. Who is he working for at this point? He'll start off in a shitty mallcore group, rise to prominence, shit all over an evil organization, attempt to help an underling of the evil organization by producing their record, only to cock it up so badly I have to wonder if this was sabotage. Cam's ridiculous high pitched screeching has been processed to sound like he's singing through the back of a fan or if he has an excess of saliva in the back of his throat while he's singing. It isn't Auto Tune or anything (he sounds flat on a few screams), but it's still really irritating. Really, he was the hook that got many people into the band, and then Joey so happily waltzes in and castrates him with a Coke bottle. Jeez, the other vocalist is similarly processed to the point that there are times I'm not actually sure which one is yelling. And of course, Joey's a drummer, so he has to make sure the drums are prominent. The rampant fellating of his non-shitty skills seems to have amped up his ego a bit, because the drums manage to overpower the guitars at times, which shouldn't ever happen on such a riff driven album such as this. This actually ends up being rather perplexing considering that this guy is far and away the best drummer the band has had yet... it's a shame he had to be a dicknose and duke the guy from Saxon.
Apart from the rape job behind the mixing boards, the actual substance behind the songs is surprisingly strong. It's saddening that, while they haven't really lost any of the thunder and fury from the previous album, Fire Up The Blades had to be screwed up by a crappy mixing job and too many tracks... both of which are relatively easy fixes. The opening trinity of "Night Marauders", "Goatrider's Horde", and "Trial of Champions" ranks as some of the best tracks the band ever laid to tape. The lattermost is chock full of goofy sounding jazz organ keyboard sounds, and yet it still sounds great in the context of the song. "Demon's Blade" and "Assassins of the Light" are other standouts, reminding me of their previous album in the best way possible. While every song is retardedly catchy, some of them fall flat. "God of the Cold White Silence" is pretty unnecessary and "Great Hall of Feasting" is a nice break, but is rather worthless after the first minute.
The overall feel of the album is "big and stupid". A lot of elements are overblown for the sake of cheese (what some people refer to as MEETAAAL!), and it makes otherwise decent songs nearly unbearably corny. In all actuality, this is only a minor step down from Advance and Vanquish, but the awful production is a mighty poo stain on a decent rug. This is good for some drunken headbanging, but not much else. Then again, that's really what the band was all about from the get go.
This band confuses me. They got 2 vocalists, and who both are pretty much mediocre at best. They got keyboards that sound like an organ. And it was produced by someone from Slipknot? And yet, they still managed to release a somewhat enjoyable album. Yes, very strange indeed.
3 Inches of Blood are just one of those weird bands that you would think would just totally suck. Even though there are many problems with them, I could still find some enjoyment in them. The first problem I had was the 2 vocalist, the harsh vocalist and the clean vocalist. The harsh vocalist sounds like your typical deathcore/metalcore vocals, and he can be annoying as hell sometimes. The second vocalist, or the clean vocalist, has an extremely high pitched voice. He sounds like a falsetto, so he can be a bit of an annoyance at times. The songs with more of the clean vocalist though are better than the harsh vocalist, like “Forest King”.
The keyboard play here is terrible in every way imaginable. It’s not so much as to the fact that they use a keyboard, but it sounds terrible. The keyboard play sounds like an organ, making it unbearable to listen to. It’s only in 2 songs, one being “Trial of Champions” and the other being the outro song. But it ruins the song “Trial of Champions” completely.
There is a lot of variation with the songs and with the riffs they use. They have a mixture off riffs from NWOBHM, some power styling, and even some Viking metal in the “Forest King”. It sounds like they were going for that 80’s metal vibe, with some influences like Judas Priest or Iron Maiden.
The lyrics are down right cheesy and stupid. They can bring more of an annoyance being so stupid rather seriousness. Take the song “Trial of Champions” for example:
When the thumb comes down
You know just what to do
Kill kill kill
It's your time do what must be done
Every day you fight, every day you win
Yes I know they are cheesy, but they make you laugh now don’t they.
So this is an album I though would suck but it turned out to be enjoyable for the time being. There’s a lot of creativity to the songs especially with some of the riffs. The drumming is also good, very fast, has some galloping to it, but its good. The vocals and lyrics is what will ruin it for you if anything. At least that’s what it did for me. But I still enjoyed it and it is worth listening to if you can find it.
I'll admit it. When I first heard of this band, the readings on my "This is Going to Suck" Detector went off the charts. They have a hardcore vocalist, the album was produced by Joey Jordison of Slipknot, and they are signed to Roadrunner. But 3 Inches of Blood proves why you should always give the benefit of the doubt, because they are actually good!
The songs are catchy. Really really catchy. I can't stop headbanging to them. One way of looking at this band's sound is a mixture of old and new. We have shameless Maiden worship as well as a nod to old-school thrash/power metal, but with hardcore vocals that turn the album on its ear and provide a modern listening experience. A good example of this old/new dichotomy is the opening track, "Night Marauders." We have galloping 80s style riffs and high pitched singing together with...screamo vocals? Have the gods gone crazy?
Now, the band takes a lot of shit for the screaming, but I'm a believer that every style and technique has its place, and the screamed vocals actually gel surprisingly well with 3 Inches of Blood's sound. The band's trademark is the duelling tradeoffs between vocalists Cam Pipes (falsetto) and Jamie Hooper (the aforementioned hardcore singer), and indeed most of the album's variety comes from the interplay of these two singing styles. Cam brings a nice Halford vibe to the table while Hooper roughens things up with his screams and grunts. They are both great vocalists, and neither dominates or overpowers the other. I'd like to see this dual approach to vocals taken up by more bands.
The band's drummer is definitely one of those guys who favors power and energy over skill. He's not the tightest or fastest monkey in the forest, but his drumming is enthusiastic and just plain fun to listen to. My one complaint is that he has a tendency to throw in lots of snare and tom-tom rolls when they're not needed ("Night Marauders" is the worst offender), but that's just minor bitching.
On to the individual songs, "Goatriders Horde" is a rampaging speedfest with a flashy guitar solo."God of the Cold White Silence" is damned near a black metal song. Hooper tries his hand at some eerie screeching, and the keyboards in the background give this an early Dimmu Borgir flavor. There's a folk metal inspired bridge in the song that works quite well. "Forest King" is one of the more sedate numbers (though it still rocks hard), with some nice Maiden-style riffing and a slower, melodic approach.
Everything here is pretty good, but I peg "Trial of Champions" as my favorite. This song is a glorious vocal-driven show with Cam and Hooper bouncing off each other like a pair of spinning Beyblades. The chorus has some jazzy keyboard work that gives the song an interesting flavor, and either way it's infectious as hell.
Okay, so all is well and good. Where does this band lose points? Well, it gets really, really repetitive. This is one of those bands that writes songs that are lots of fun to listen to, but become boring when you listen to more than 3 or 4 of them in a row. A little bit of this stuff goes a long way, and the band tends to overdo it.
The song structures at times feel directionless and meandering. "Trial of Champions" is the only track here that sticks to the traditional verse/chorus format, everything else is practically freestyle. This gives the album a progressive edge but means you have a hard time figuring out where you're at in a given song.
I mentioned earlier that everyone's favorite midget Joey Jordison produces the album? Well, let's talk about him for a second. He manages not to turn the album into a complete clownfuck, but his work isn't entirely satisfactory either. Like no-one that coming, the drums are WAY TOO LOUD in the mix (I imagine his arguments were something to the tune of "duuhh dudes I gotta mic the drums up uhhuhuhhh they give me a boner") and the guitar tone is kind of syrupy and weak next to the band's Advance and Vanquish album. Still, this is a decent-sounding record. There may be hope for Mr Jordison yet.
So there you have it, a good band that is signed to Roadrunner. Don't let the label's predilection for nu metal bands put you off, because 3 Inches of Blood is the anti nu metal.
We should consider ourselves lucky to be hearing new music from 3 Inches of Blood. Weeks after their excellent Roadrunner debut "Advance & Vanquish" the entire band (except Pipes & Hooper) quit. But Pipes and Hooper carried on and found new members to fill every position in the band. We're very lucky for this because their new album "Fire Up The Blades" kills!!
All the trademarks we expect from 3 Inches of Blood are still there, fantasy lyrics, twin guitar harmony, vicious screams, and vocals that bring back Painkiller era Rob Halford.Any fear of Slipknot drummer Joey Jordision(producer of this album)bringing in a nu-metal influence can be put to rest, this album was made for old school metalheads, not the maggot nation. But this time around the band has let in some thrash and black metal influence to give the songs a more deadly edge!
Also the bands has up the anthem factor in almost every song. "The Goatriders Horde" and "Assassins of The Light" may surpass "Deadly Sinners" as the catchiest songs the band has written.Also check out the chanting section in the middle of "Night Murarders" and you can just picture a huge crowd with their fists in the air singing along. Quality's like that are missing in alot of todays metal bands but 3 inches purposely designs these anthems for the live setting.
In a day and age when most metal bands put out dark political albums its good to see some bands just still want to have fun. 3 Inches of Blood have once again succeeded at putting out an album that is not only fun to listen to but is full of musical talent and technical ability. Fans of old school Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden should check this out. Also check them out live too and watch in amazement as they pull it all off live!!
3 Inches of Blood have garnered a lot of negative criticism and dubious glaring from the metal scene ever since their inception. Their claims of being "old-school metal" have caused a few eyebrow raises especially when coupled with their usual appearance and their hardcore singer. Back then I'd say 'Fuck that useless posturing, they play some headbanging metal you elitist fucktards', but now I'm forced to swallow my immature and acidic words because they've failed me on their latest release "Fire Up the Blades". Yes this album is fairly shitty as compared to their gem "Advance and Vanquish" which was nothing short of good metal with a sense of humour about itself; power/speed riffage, exuberant solos, Maiden harmonies, high pitched Halford-esque vocals and lyrics so cheesy it'd kill someone with lactose intolerance just by placing the liner notes next to them. "Fire Up the Blades" keeps the cheese factor flowing as high as ever but sacrifices a lot of the riffage, reduces the overall number of solos to the bare minimum whilst bringing in breakdowns and some keyboards. It hasn't crossed completely into the metalcore region yet but the signs are there and if wasn't for the NWOBHM riffs in some of the songs you'd be right in thinking of this album as nothing but some monstrous hybrid of power metal and metalcore.
As with most metalcore the production is rather highly polished, unfortunately thanks to the meddlesome hands of the Slipknot midget known as Joey Jordison, the drums are far too high in the mix and end up ruining a lot of the perfectly good riffing. Vocals are up front but they don't really detract from the overall sound, and the bass is mostly non-existent unless you really try to listen to it which is pointless since it plays root notes for the majority of the time. The vocalists have always been the point of contention with traditionalists shunning the band for their inclusion of hardcore vocals, at times he can seem out of place but I don't find him completely repugnant although on this release. Their primary singer seems to hit the notes fairly well and isn't complete crap, good for him. The guitar tone is decent, it's not too down tuned nor is it weak.
The songs always manage to start off promisingly; for example "Night Marauders" kicks off with a scream, then moves into a nice galloping riff for a moment then transitions smoothly into a simple metal riff before changing into speed metal-ish riff. At first it's impressive because you can see they've really done their research and probably wank furiously to NWOBHM LPs like aussie teenagers do to late night SBS. The first break in "Night Marauders" isn't hideously breakdown-ish at first, then it chugs a bit but it seems to work I suppose. Luckily it moves into some soloing which is pretty decent and continues right up until the end of the song. Unfortunately from there on out the quality of the album wavers in quality, more often than not far worse than the first song. The only songs that really compare the quality expected are "Demon's Blade" and maybe "Assassins of the Light". "Demon's Blade" manage to use some more basic heavy riffing with anthemic and catchy choruses, "CUT! DOWN! BY A DEMON'S BLADE!" which is fucking awesome whilst "Assassins of the Light" is a Priest-esque number with some top-notch soloing early on into the song. Again catchy choruses and cheese-tastic lyrics galore.
The rest of the album as mentioned is fairly shitty, the song structures are very formulaic and may only vary with the song length and even then that means just chucking in an extra section is extending a pre-existing one; for example the elongated break in "God of the Cold White Silence". Everything seems to follow the structure of; simple opening lick repeated for a few bars, potentially with the other guitar joining in half way through to harmonise, this is followed by either power or speed metal riffing, the chorus is usually a simple couple of chords, this repeats for another verse and chorus before there's either a solo followed by a break or a break followed by a solo, then verse and chorus and outro. The introduction of breakdowns into the songs isn't necessarily terrible but really draws away from the idea of creating a nostalgic traditional metal album and tends to disrupt the flow of a song. Admittedly they lead into these breakdowns well but some of them just feel awkward and far too out of place when placed in juxtaposition with the NWOBHM-styled riffage. The minor addition of keyboards throughout the album is mostly unwelcome, especially in the song "Trial of Champions" which could have been quite a fun and catchy song if not for the horrible keyboards. It starts off nicely with some power metal riffs and then BAM! Terrible synth things... I'm not quite sure how to describe the sound, it reminds me of something I heard when I was younger in an old video game; very artificial and simple, but irritating. Now keyboards can be used effectively but here they detract from the overall quality of the song, the guitars do absolutely nothing underneath these keyboards and during the breakdown they are the forefront instrument which makes the whole thing sound embarrassingly sad. "Great Hall of Feasting" is another song that falls very short of the mark, technically it could be a good song to help break up the monotony of the album but it fails to develop properly and instead we end up with a plodding song with few riffs and ideas. "God of the Cold White Silence" seems to be their attempt at being epic, it works somewhat but the riffing is fairly plain and the lack of a decent lead work or solo section gives the song absolutely no punch. The dual guitar harmonies are nicely executed if very simplistic in nature though.
"Fire Up the Blades" fails to live up the expectations set by it's predecessor "Advance and Vanquish", whilst there are still cheesy lyrics, catchy choruses and power/speed/NWOBHM riffing they've shed a lot of the vigor and energy, plus the prevalence of keyboards and breakdowns causes the songs to become vapid and inconsistent at times. Cynicism dictates that Roadrunner is most likely behind their commercialised sounding record, capitalising on naive youths who think Machine Head are thrash metal and other wank. This album isn't really recommended unless you're a die-hard fan or have a general appreciation of simple heavy metal. There are some redeeming qualities but "Advance and Vanquish" did everything good on this album about a thousand times better.
I would have expected to bash the innards out of this album, but this manages to get a passing grade even from me. And has a rare distinction, which I will get to at the end of the review.
To be sure, this band's reputation goes before them. I've always kind of ignored them in the grand scheme of things. Considering they seemed to have established themselves in non-metal circles, and were known for being "true" metal. I figured listening to them would just lead to endless frustration, and the untamable urge to snap necks for tarnishing the name of metal. But in the end, I'm pleasantly surprised to find out that this isn't some hardcore band being marketed as metal. It's really metal, and it's actually pretty good, even though I can’t take it entirely seriously at times.
If more of the bands well known as being metal in non-metal circles (you know the bands) were actually like this band, the world would be a better place. You can't hide behind the guise of metal just because you use distorted guitars and double bass - especially when you reek of flamboyant horseshit.
There are two readily apparent things such bands do that are not metal, that this band does. The vocals - granted, it's falsetto, and he's trying to sound like Rob Halford. But it works. It's exponentially better than some retarded floor-puncher barking in his hardcore raps.
The second thing is that these so-called metal bands have drummers that play groovy, weak beats like their arms are made of rubber. I have a soft spot for gallop beats, and when I first listened to this and heard the gallop beat in Night Marauder, I knew there was promise. I mean, seriously, what the fuck is more metal than a nice fist-pumping melodic riff with a gallop beat?
There are a good deal of solid riffs throughout, and the songs are well constructed. The overall sound of the band is like a mix between Pain Killer era Priest (especially in the vocals) and The Crown. Occasionally going for an even more traditional sound, like in Trial of Champions and Assassins of the Light. Clearly they are trying for a NWOBHM sound at times a la Iron Maiden and even Satan (though I honestly doubt this band listens to Satan). There's some Viking metal riffs in Forest King.
So needless to say, the band's influences are easy to cite. It's not news to anyone that this isn't groundbreaking. But it's a cool mix of genres which forge it into something I could really define as new school meets old school speed metal. I certainly have no complaint there.
They're clear on the vocal front with death howls, and Rob Halford knock off vocals. The drumming gets my stamp of approval, and there's no hardcore, nu-metal, or other flamboyant, un-metal riffs. In fact, there are plenty of riffs that hearken to the bygone days of metal, and I can guarantee someone who doesn't listen to old school metal would not be able to pull that off. These ears could not be tricked by some hardcore kids trying to play old school metal. The jazz organ in Trial of Champions might have been really, really pushing it. Plus the lyrics are just meaningless, being the one area where I'd say the band fails in their attempts. Regardless, this is an honest, moderately good metal album.
So, let's break it down.
Pros/highlights: Probably the only worthwhile band aside from old Metallica that gets recognition, boat-loads of genres crossing, the vocals when they work, fitting solos, tight well-rounded drumming. The songs Demons Blade, Forest King, Infinite Legions and Night Marauder.
Cons/lowpoints: Meaningless, goofy lyrics, the vocals when they don't work, the song The Great Hall of Feasting. There sounds to be some effects on the vocals. You can understand why people would think this might be a parody band.
It's honestly quite difficult to know just how to feel about this band. But the music should speak louder than how the band dresses or their fan base. I see no point in hating this band, they are not cheapening metal, and they are good musicians who play good metal, and only metal. Sure, it’s not the best, but it’s good, and with any luck could steer some fortunate fools from the mainstream muck into the dark underworld of real metal. At one time, practically all of us had to be lead from the mainstream herds into this shadowy underground anyway, normally only by one band. This band is a great vehicle for that. That is a distinction very few bands have. And like many of those bands, it might hold some merit with those of us who are already down here.
Ever since seeing them for the first time a couple years ago, I've been a huge 3 Inches Of Blood fan. I love the combination of the two vocalists. Normally I'm not a fan of the metalcore-style scream, but the way Jamie pulls it off is actually bearable, even when unaccompanied by Cam. Thankfully it is, because this album is a lot more heavily weighted on his vocal ability than Cam's shown in the previous albums.
As I listened further, I could definitely tell that their sound has changed, even though it was somewhat subtle. Not only are Jamie's vocals more prominent, but every band member's sound seems a lot more polished both in technique and production. Normally I'm not a fan of bands losing their rough edges, but 3IoB has managed with this album to maintain a certain element of roughness to what sounds like a very polished album as a whole.
I honestly wasn't a fan of the intro... I think it seemed a little out of place in comparison to the rest of the album, and went on for a bit too long. However, once Night Marauders began, I knew I was in for the 3IoB I remembered. Night Marauders is actually one of my favorite songs off this album, mainly because I feel the track starts out with a bang but still manages to get better as it continues on. The album then continues on with nonstop headbanging potential. I didn't find a single song that I wasn't rocking out to, something I've now grown to expect from this band.
Overall I was very impressed with this album. It hasn't quite surpassed Advance and Vanquish for me, but I could really see this album growing on me in the near future. I'll be anxiously waiting to hear how their sound continues to evolve in future albums!
Track highlights, IMO, were Night Marauders, Forest King, Infinite Legions, Black Spire and The Hydra's Teeth.
3 Inches of Blood's last album, Advance and Vanquish, made my list for one of the best metal albums of 2004 so it's needless to say that I had very high expectations out of Fire Up the Blades. When we received their new album in the radio station I work at I couldn't have been more excited and scared in my life. Was it going to put their other material to shame? Or were they going to be one of those bands that hit their mark and never quite get there again?
Fire Up the Blades didn't let me down. Already a very high chance of making my top ten albums of 2007, Fire Up the Blades is everything I expected from the Canadian group and more. An explosive blending of thrash and power metal circa 1986 with a modern production style and flair. Fire Up the Blades takes off right where Advance and Vanquish left off and literally "fires up the blades."
The guitar work is amazing dueling parts that often criss cross and trade off with each other. Riffs and leads are easily switched by the two players and their chemistry (despite the revolving door of members in the band in the past few years) is cohesive with the band and the music. The riffs are monstrous with a guitar tone similar to the thrash bands of 20 years ago. Speed and technicality are the keys to the guitar work and not too much groove is going to be found in the music (except for "Great Hall of Feasting"). The leads and solos are all about melody over the riffs and at times are amazingly catchy. The mix of power metal and thrash metal guitar writing gives the album a very melodic yet aggressive side that few bands manage to accomplish.
The bass and drum work follow in the same idea as the rest of the album - speed and technicality are the focus. The drums are a tad bit loud for the album for my tastes. I figure its because Slipknot drummer, Joey Jordison produced the album that a lot of the focus is drawn to the drums. But the drums are quite well written and well played. The bass parts are a little hard to pick out of the mix but once one finds an ear for them its very well done bass work. Nothing too fancy but fast and heavy.
Having two singers in a band is either a blessing or a curse. In the case of 3 Inches of Blood - its a blessing. Both singers are good but not great. Neither have amazing range but combined we have both worlds. There are harsh vocals intermixed with falsetto screams. The combination is going to bring in newer metal heads (harsh barking vocals) and the older fans (falsetto vocals) so that Fire Up the Blades will appeal to everyone. The harsh vocals have a stronger role this time around in the mix without much danger to the music.
The lyrical content of Fire Up the Blades is that of older metal. Let's sing about warriors, battle, Vikings, evil vs. good, and the greatness of metal. Manowar eat your heart out. 3 Inches of Blood are here to take the reigns of older metal and bring it into the new age.
Fire Up the Blades is nothing new to fans of 3 Inches of Blood - same concepts but with a little bit more speed to the mix. Metalheads are either going to love it or hate - with not much in between.
Songs to check out: Goatrider's Horde, God of Cold White Silence, The Hydra's Teeth.