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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.