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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.