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Having cranked 3 Inches Of Blood's previous albums until my ears bled, I was somewhat left shaking my head at their final release Long Live Heavy Metal, which seems a disappointing end to their otherwise illustrious legacy.
The album's first song has the same chink in the armor as "Battles & Brotherhood", off of Here Waits Thy Doom. As with all their releases, it provides a solid opener, barging right in on the listener yet it seems they're trying too hard to sell a metal head image on both these songs, with their tongue-in-cheek medieval imagery. Granted, that last album had some great moments such as "Fierce Defender", "Execution Tank" and "All Them Witches". However, instead of improving on the style and themes conveyed previously, they simply repeat the same formula this time around. All things considered, it's still a decent album; Shane Clark and Justin Hagberg's come up with some interesting riffs and original solos, though not quite as impressive as on Fire Up The Blades. Their once razor sharp wood splintering edge seems to have dulled a bit. It's curious how they also fill in on the bass - I guess their lack of finding or keeping a devoted bassist was a contributing factor to them packing it in. Nevertheless, I appreciate the fact it's still clearly audible and dominates at times such as on the opening to "Metal Woman". Ash Pearson on drums earns his paycheck here and owns the show on "Leather Lord" with his battering ram onslaught, though this song's vocals and lyrics really grate on me I really miss the vocals of long departed Jaime Hooper, when 3IOB was one of the few bands to feature constant dual vocalist trade-offs. Cam (Pipes), your soup's getting cold...
One thing about Long Live Heavy Metal: the production is as good as their other releases, but half of the songs seem repetitive whereas on Here Waits Thy Doom, each and every song rocked. I simply find myself skipping past all the songs after "My Sword Will Not Sleep", before things start picking up with "4000 Torches". This last, along with "Leave It On The Ice" are the only ones which re-capture the past glory and awesome riffing of their formative years. Die For Gold (Upon The Boiling Sea IV) is pretty cool too, as it complements the 3-part buccaneering odyssey from their second album, Advance & Vanquish. I figure it's a nice way to close shop, as they must have known this was to be their last release, and it pays homage to a long-time fan favorite. I also found that "Storming Juno" and "Men Of Fortune" are definitely worth their salt, the latter adding a new twist to their songwriting, alternating between slow, sombre, and bright moments.
I wanted to rate this a little higher than I did but the deal breaker here is that I really don't know what they were thinking with "Chief And The Blade" and their choice of a cover song. Granted, a little acoustic interlude can be pleasant at times, but this whole Robin Hood theme amalgamated with an unmistakably sounding Ugly Kid Joe harmony leaves me listless. "Journey To The Promised Land" worked on Battle Cry Under A Winter Sun, but here, it just makes me want to yawn. At least the other instrumental on the album, "One For The Ditch", makes up for it a bit and fits in better as a closing track. "Dark Passenger" is a bit bland and doesn't stand out much. Then there is the Ronnie James Dio (RIP) tribute cover song "Look Out". The only cover of theirs I really care for is Lucifer's Friend's "In The Time Of Job When Mammon Was A Yippie" (phew). I understand they wished to pay tribute to the recently deceased metal icon, but couldn't they have picked one of the masterpieces from his Black Sabbath days (i.e. Heaven And Hell, The Mob Rules) instead? I don't know, it's like, look out for what? The song just doesn't sit well with me, from it's dumb chorus to its tacky keyboard solo. Good effort though and kudos to them for honoring him.
Another major shortcoming is the fact "Strength Of The Brave" and "Lords Of Change" are only included on the limited edition digipak releases. Their omission from the standard Century Media CD has me completely baffled, as they would have greatly improved their final album, perhaps even bringing it up to par with their previous releases. Oh well, what can you do? At least they didn't include their stale cover of Blue Oyster Cult's "Cities On Flame With Rock And Roll"...
It's a sad thing when a band that rekindled my passion for metal comes up short like this. They should have graciously hung up their bootstraps with their last effort, Here Waits Thy Doom, which still rocked hard (and in Hell!) instead of trying to keep the torch burning (no pun intended) with this lackluster release. I can only hope that in time they re-unite and recapture their past glory and sound with a solid comeback album. For now, I'm going to remember them for what they did best, truly traditional and catapulting metal such as the Advance & Vanquish and Fire Up The Blades releases,
My Sword Will Not Sleep
Leave It On The Ice
Die For Gold (Upon The Boiling Sea IV)
Men Of Fortune
3 Inches of Blood seem to get a lot of undeserved flak from the more stalwart, serious metal heads in this world, due perhaps to their undying devotion to magnifying the more over the top archetypes and stereotypes that have, for better or worse, defined the genre since its inception. Yes, they play heavy metal, and apparently they want you to know that. And while the title to this, their 5th record, is face-palmingly derivative, it's a step up from the floundering Here Waits Thy Doom, and an unwaveringly solid album of infectious anthems, even if it falls short of the glory the band captured and raucously incited just a few short years ago.
Indeed, I make no secret of my love for Advance and Vanquish, an explosive doomsday riff-gasm packed to the core with memorability and bombast, and I still consider it a masterpiece of modern heavy metal. It's successor, Fire Up the Blades, was a close second, but 2009's Here Waits Thy Doom seemed sparse and lacking in comparison, with a much lower overall average of memorable riffs and choruses. While Long Live Heavy Metal is still a few fabulous riffs per square foot short of the gold, it's still a fun, aggressively melodic record full of heart, and deserves a place in your collection.
The inability to conjure the spirit of their most essential material is not so surprising when one considers that none of the musicians from Advance and Vanquish remain, with even half the vocal talent having since departed. However, when the headbanging energy of Metal Woman rips out of the gate, it becomes clear that the band has found some re-invigoration, and the kinetic energy initially felt continues to charge the entirety of the album's 53 minute length. From the (Halford inspired?) moshing aggression of Leather Lord, to the spine-tingling Ronnie James Dio tribute Look Out, through the winding, epic, slicing riffs of 4000 Torches and beyond, this collection of tracks veritably oozes memorability, with the distinctly sweet ability to ingrain themselves in your mind almost instantly, featuring hooks that dig deep and refuse to relent for days to come.
Guitarist Justin Hagberg continues his onslaught of harsh vocals in support of the shrill falsetto's of Cam Pipes, and the man has seemingly grown accustomed to the style, as the vocal dichotomy continues to work in the bands favor. Those who dislike the King Diamond meets Rob Halford meets a kick to the plums vocals of Pipes will not be won over here, but to the man's credit, he has not lost an iota of his flabbergasting range or inherent hilarity. I've always enjoyed his outrageous style, and I think if their detractors didn't take themselves so damn seriously, they'd have a lot better time, not only with 3IoB, but with life in general. And that's what Long Live Heavy Metal is all about, in the end; a solid, fun release to counterbalance the posturing brutality and inherent emotional gravity of the scene in general. It's content to drink a beer and kick your ass, and really, what more can you ask for?
In fact, I have little complaint at all with Long Live Heavy Metal (beyond its continuously irksome title), and the only downside I can legitimately point to is that no matter how searing its riffs, how sticky its swelling choruses end up being in the walls of my memory, I still must inevitably compare it to Advance and Vanquish, a duel it simply cannot win. However, unlike many other bands that dwell so deeply in their own shadow that anything else is inevitably a flash-in-the-pan, a fling, or a caricature, I have a feeling I'll be spinning this one for at least a few more years. It may not be in my cycle for life, like its 2004 predecessor, but Long Live is a strong, fun, vibrant effort, featuring the band once again on the ascent, and I dare to dream they may one day again reach the summit with another classic release. Until then, though, this will more than suffice, as 3 Inches of Blood have picked themselves up by their boot-straps and once again rekindled the torch of balls-out, spirit-blazing metal for 2012, with a gleam in their eyes and axe in hand.
-Left Hand of Dog
Even though 3 Inches of Blood had success in 2004 with their second record, Advance and Vanquish, they are a band that really emerged from the shadows in 2009. Their third studio effort Here Waits Thy Doom caught on quickly and the bands name began spreading like wildfire. Though 3 Inches of Blood only recently gained popularity, they've been formed since 1999 and are Canadian born, known for their fantasy themes, party style humor, and love for hockey and beer. Vocalist Cam Pipes even dons his hockey jersey at some live shows during the sport season to show his support and love for Canadian culture and heritage. Long Live Heavy Metal is easily one of the most anticipated albums of 2012, and since its release the band have been touring relentlessly to support it. So, what's in store for the listener?
The first thing that should be made clear is that Justin Hagberg plays bass on this album, just as he did in Here Waits Thy Doom and the EP Anthems for the Victorious. This is becoming a regular routine for Hagberg, however his primary and live instrument still remains as the guitar. He also contributes largely to the vocals as well, providing a deep harsh growl alongside high-pitched powerhouse Cam Pipes. Hagberg's vocals sound more matured in Long Live Heavy Metal, and he sings more here than on any previous material. Pipes and Hagberg vocally team up in an abundance of songs, including "Metal Woman, "My Sword Will Not Sleep" and "Men of Fortune", fluidly alternating phrases or adding the two styles together so that they clash thunderously against one another.
While the opening song "Metal Woman" was made into a video and has attention grabbing lyrics, a groovy bass line, and crushing drums, "My Sword Will Not Sleep" is where the album really blows up. The bass comes to the front of the mix and starts dominating the guitar, the two have a rough back and forth battle for rights to the lead, all building up to an intensified experience while Cam Pipes is blasting his powerful, energetic vocals, proclaiming:
I will have my revenge!
You'll die by my hand!
There is a great use of echo and reverb on the vocal track which enforces their importance. Finally, the song ends with a drum roll solo that paves the way for a major heavy metal blowout where all of the members wail on their respective instruments for about thirty seconds. Cliche? Yes. Fun? Yes. 3 Inches of Blood know what heavy metal is all about, and make it well known that they do.
Two of the tracks are purely instrumental, the first being "Chief and the Blade". This song at first appears to be out of place, comprised of a heavy Native American influence, but it helps to keep the light and airy overall feel to Long Live Heavy Metal afloat. The same can be said for the other track, "One for the Ditch", but without any Native American influence, the closing track is pure power metal in all of its glory and ends the album on a high note.
"Leave It On the Ice" pays tribute to the bands love of hockey in a very violently descriptive way and is built from hellishly fast galloping and screaming solos. "My Sword Will Not Sleep", "Look Out", "4000 Torches", "Men of Fortune" and "One for the Ditch" are the highlights here, and it is also good to see the group continuing the story of "Upon the Boiling Sea" which was started on Advance and Vanquish.
Yeah, sure there are some cheesy moments full of heavy metal cliche, but what would heavy metal be without those cliches? Long Live Heavy Metal pays tribute to women, epic battles, dragons, riches, and all of the things that have made metal what it is today and it does it in a stylistic manner. Here's to hoping that 3 Inches of Blood will remain at their current line up, all of the members work together wonderfully and know how to use each other musically to one anothers advantage. If you don't mind some cheese in your metal, this is a strong recommendation.
- Villi Thorne
Been a big fan of these guys for quite a while. Ever since I heard "The Goatriders Horde" and got used to the high vocals, I've been hooked. After the last album, I had lost hope for this band. It seemed without their growl vocalist, Jamie Hooper, they had lost their heavier edge, but this album feels like a fitting redemption for the crime of their last album.
Boy oh boy, do I love me some good sound quality, and after "Here Waits Thy Doom", this album is like an eargasm of clear, clean sound. The recording quality, guitar tones, vocal quality, and pretty much everything on this album is so much better sounding than on the last. To me it sounds like "Fire Up The Blades" Part 2; it has a lot of similar elements to that album and a similar sound (although less sinister and evil-sounding). The drums are crashing and thumping, the guitars are clear and heavy with lots of distortion to really bring the crunch, and the vocals are crisp, clean, and as high as always.
The songs are nice and heavy with a lot of newer metal sound, but they keep the balance with the old style vocals and some '80s-inspired riffs mixed in. The riffs are fast and heavy and there's plenty of fast drums and double kicks with the intense vocals of Cam Pipes and the growls of Justin worked in where it fits.
Epic storytelling and fantasy themes are back with songs like "4000 Torches", "Storming Juno" and "Die For Gold (Upon the Boiling Sea IV)" which I was surprised to see them follow up on 3 albums later. There are a few cliche lyrics here and there like in "Metal Woman" and "Leather Lord", but it's hard to avoid this with the style 3IOB goes for. The song "Storming Juno" is a great song about the invasion of Juno Beach during WWII. The song "Look Out" is a very nice tribute to the late Ronnie James Dio, which was very nice and they kept it heavy and fast (which is how I'm sure Ronnie would want his tribute) instead of making some sort of power ballad.
I'm very glad I gave this album a chance instead of brushing it off after the last record. If you like Fire Up The Blades, this record will surely put a smile on your face (or frown if you want to be metal about it).
-4000 Torches (that chorus is burned into my brain).
-My Sword Will Not Sleep
Could do without:
-The lyrics of "Metal Woman" and "Leather Lord", just a bit too cliche for my taste.
Hope this review helps anyone new to the band or is wondering about this album.