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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.