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3 Inches of Disappointment - 45%

Feast for the Damned, August 3rd, 2019

3 Inches Of Blood is a unique little power metal band hailing from Canada. The thing that makes them unique is the usage of harsh vocals (which you don't see in this genre too often). Most power metal purists tend to stay away or straight-up hate this band for reasons unknown to me, but to be fair, if this was the album that introduced me to the band, I wouldn't bother with the rest of the far superior albums either.

The 11 songs that can be found on this album make up for the most mixed album in terms of quality I have heard in a very long time. The very first track (Ride Darkhorse, Ride) is one of the best songs on the album. The riffage that this song has is straight-up amazing. It's fast melodic and flows perfectly, yet it's not the strongest part of the song. Since this is the first song, you get the first taste of Cam Pipes's vocals and let me tell you, they are just something else. At times, it reminds me of old-school US power metal vocals (for example Jag Panzer), but somehow the band doesn't have obvious traits of US power metal nor does it have the key elements of European power metal thus they stay entirely unique. The harsh vocals are the ones to thank mostly. Jamie Hooper is an amazing vocalist and he really adds a lot to the band...

...but this won't be the album where he showcases it. Let's face it, if the main feature of your band is what you manage to fuck up the most then you shouldn't expect the album to be good. The harsh vocals on this record have probably the worst production in the band's entire career. They sound muffled and the fact that they are extremely overused doesn't help either. They make the entire album sound comical and just annoying to listen to. Heir to the Chaos Throne, for example, has so many of these vocals that it's almost unlistenable, but thanks to the instrumentation I could power myself through it 2-3 times. What's even better is that almost every song with the exception of maybe 1 or 2 is overwhelmed with these badly recorded/mixed vocals thus making the entire album a pain in the ass to listen to. Destroy the Orcs is probably the second most popular song from the band, but not this version. The riffs are poorly mixed even without the horrific harsh vox, but as soon as those come to play the entire song gets 10 times worse (should I also mention that even the clean vocals that are good on the rest of the album managed to be annoying here?), but thankfully the band re-recorded it on their sophomore album, but more on that later. It also adds up the entire album that the song I found the most enjoyable (Journey to the Promiseland) wasn't even written nor performed by the band, but it was done by another (forgotten) band from the label called S.T.R.E.E.T.S..

Overall while I am a huge fan of the band, this album is a promising debut entirely ruined by the garbage production. What's even worse is that not even the decent riffs and the actually good clean singing could save this disaster that was entirely caused by the harsh vocals.

The highlights of the album are Ride Darkhorse, Ride; Skeletal Onslaught and Journey to the Promiseland.

The Dark Horse Is Coming! - 90%

CHAIRTHROWER, September 25th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2009, CD, Sonic Unyon Metal

"Waaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!" Pardon me; I simply had to get it out my system, that is, mimic Cam "Pipes"' emphatic and indelible war cry, which he congenially throws in at oddly fitting intervals throughout 3 Inches Of Blood's super fun and engaging full-length debut, Battle Cry Under A Wintersun, originally released in 2002 under Teenage Rampage - go figure! - but later re-issued in 2009 by Sonic Unyon Metal, the extended version if you will (featuring four of five tracks from 3IOB's very first EP and recording, Sect Of The White Worm released a year earlier) I'd excitedly gleaned back when actual record shops were still a thing prior to the World wide web's inevitable encroaching - and usurping - on-line exposure/ distribution network. (Urf!)

Serving as a tasty morsel of what to expect from the Vancouverites, BUaW is largely comprised of killer, straight-for-the-jugular (who cares if my soup's getting cold!?) riffs, wicked NWOBHM-ish twin guitar harmonies, tight spiralling solos, well-woven bass lines/ drum beats and last but not least, an eclectic - and highly unorthodox - mélange of (relatively) clean and harsh as Hell vocals courtesy of 3IOB's dual front men Cam Pipes and James Hooper, respectively. While Cam Pipes unabashedly delivers his raw and meaty vocals with aplomb from the onset, Jaime Hooper, for the most part, merely shadows the former with his gargoyle/ harpy like seething screeching. Also worth mentioning is how SotWW and BUaW are the only 3IOB releases featuring a battery comprised of brothers Rich and Geoff Trawick, who, might I add, do a commendable job of laying the groundwork for the up and coming sextet.

However, much to my dismay, upon hearing this Canadian powerhouse live on five separate occasions, the only "Battlecry" track they've played was opener "Ride Darkhorse, Ride", to my knowledge, a long-time crowd pleaser and staple which duly sets the tone for this late version's roughly forty-eight minute duration. How I would have given up a lower digit (a toe to be precise!) to be privy to an in-my-face barrage of say, "Headwaters of the River of Blood", " Heir to the Chaos Throne", "Skeletal Onslaught" (the opening cruncher of a riff is (un)godly!), "Lady Deathwish" and especially one of my all-time favorite "blooddingers", the blast-beat infused "Blazing Fires Of Evermore"!

Later 3IOB axemen Justin Hagberg and Shane Clark brought their own expertise and flair to the fore, but for some reason, original six-stringers' Bobby Froese and Sunny Dhak (a dead-ringer for one of my friends from the Coast, who's constantly mistaken for him!) displayed a certain knack for effortlessly rendered chops which agreeably and utterly got my goat right off the bat. The opening riffs to the midway tracks, notably "Headwaters of the River of Blood", "Heir To The Chaos Throne" and as mentioned, good 'ol "Skeletal Onslaught" are simply magical; for myself anyhow, they really strike a (good) nerve and dare I say, if they fail to have the same effect on others, I'll gladly chomp both my hats! The leads, for their part, aren't as explosive and extensive as later 3IOB fare but really get in there melody-wise, seamlessly fitting into the songs and majestically coasting out of the already stellar bridge work, such as on "Curse Of The Lighthouse Keeper" or "Blazing Fires Of Evermore", for instance.

Admittedly, Pipes' - never mind Hooper's! - vocals might not be most folks' cup of tea; nevertheless, they suitably fit the music at hand (while on later releases sound a bit more refined and polished somewhat) and at times, such as on the choruses, truly kick ass and make one want to pump their fist and holler along, like on the lyrically fascinating "Lady Deathwish" (dig Hooper growling "The Lady of the Night comes for you!").

Surprisingly, Cam sounds uncharacteristically mellow and placid throughout "Sunrise Over The Fjords" (especially on the second half) whilst on the pleasant, acoustic and classical, mid-placed S.T.R.E.E.T.S. cover "Journey To The Promised Land", he and Hooper take a brief moment to compose themselves, thus allowing the by-now (amicably) rattled listener a welcome breath of fresh air. Needless to say, they shouldn't get too comfortable seeing as the aforementioned "Lady Deathwish" follows as well as a couple late (original version) tracks which definitely shan't be overlooked, namely another top highlight, "Hall Of Heroes", and outstanding bass heavy jest fest "Balls Of Ice" (yes, you heard me right!).

Preceding a requisite metal anthem in closer "Tonight We Rejoice" is another extended, highly melodic cut I'm morbidly fond of, "Onward To Valhalla", as, alongside "Hall Of Heroes", it makes me ponder the possibility I met a timely demise amidst battle as a bloodthirsty Viking Berserker in a past life but I digress...

My main gripe (however minor) is, as with the other tracks from the Sect Of The White Worm EP, 3IOB should have also included "Bloody Screams of Despair That Stain the Ice" as it's an absolute beast, featuring one helluva well-poised guitar riff (it also feels like a bona fide sister track to the all-too-short "Conquerors of the Northern Sphere"). Alas, one can't have everything. As well, I'm not too crazy about "Destroy The Orcs" as it's easily the one and only weak track - by way of its generic and unimaginative triplet based riff which doesn't hold a black candle to "Balls Of Ice" - which should have been eschewed completely let alone repeated on Advance & Vanquish.

Though I'm willing to concede Battle Cry Under A Wintersun may not be 3 Inches Of Blood's greatest album (this would be either 2004's Advance & Vanquish or 2007's Fire Up The Blades - the jury's still out!) I feel it's my preferred one overall as it retains a distinct and unique gripping vibe greatly owing to the (founding) band mates' strong, unrelenting "heavy metal camaraderie". If anything, the British Colombians' first full-length foray constitutes an essential "desert island" release in my book/grimoire. Thus, I highly recommend it and can only hope whoever reads this heeds the call! (Besides, can't you hear those galloping hooves drawing nearer?)

"Lucifer sits on his throne,
Rules with an iron fist!
The executioner adds your name
To the sacrificial list!" (X2)

Orcish battlecries… and chimichangas - 75%

Xyrth, September 24th, 2016

One year after the release of the unspectacular debut EP, Sect of the White Worm, the Canadian battlegeeks were ready to strike again, this time with a full 37-minute debut LP featuring upgraded production values, though still rather unpolished and far from perfect, but definitely more charismatic. They also chose to discard the Viking thing as their sole lyrical inspiration and broadened their themes to embrace good ole Fantasy in all its might. This time Odin and his frosty lads would take a step back in order to clear the stage for dark riders, murderous skeletons, femme fatales, and… hellyeah! Why the fuck no? Murderous orcs! The 20-sided dices were cast, and the results were more positive than not, though the fact remains that this was and still is not a band for everybody, not even for power metal enthusiasts, especially the close-minded ones.

Battlecry Under a Wintersun is musically a quite simple affair. These guys sound quite amateurish, but they compensate with an undeniable catchiness in their propulsive riffs and NWOBHM-esque melodies. Undoubtedly, the double vocal assault of Cam Pipes and Jamie Hoper is what gave this band its instantly recognizable sound, and while both voices might be an acquired taste, the charm is definitely there. I enjoy Cam's over-the-top screechiness in particular, as I believe he has one of those voices you instantly either love or hate. The riffs are nothing particularly noteworthy, they somehow manage to work but are quite similar in sound and style, perhaps with the exception of some tremolo passages in “Lady Deathwish” that are a welcomed change. But some do manage to standout, in particular the ones in “Destroy the Orcs”, their sweet two-minute signature tune. The lyrics also have their appeal, especially to those into RPG-type of Fantasy stuff.

“Take the broadsword in your hand
Follow the Orcs to their camp
You will have vengeance in blood
With their heads they will pay the price!”

The rhythmic section in barebones basic, and it sounds as if drummer Geoff Trawick only had a three-piece kit. Perhaps he had! His simple beats are nonetheless quite precise. His brother Rich Trawick's bass is not particularly noticeable in part to the muddied production, and in part because it just doesn't stands out that much, but again it isn't bad. However primal the rhythmic base, it tends to work just fine thanks to the catchiness of the guitars and the dual singing. The band would have a much more capable and forceful rhythmic section in the future, but for this album the simplicity is not necessarily a bad thing. Battlecry Under a Wintersun did become a Canadian college underground hit, which propelled the band on the road to (relative) success. The feel of the band playing live to record this album also gives it a certain authenticity and youthful energy, while at the same time displaying their naiveté.

I wouldn't add many of this album's tracks in a hypothetical '3 Inches of Blood Best Of', but there are some which I deem pretty interesting on their own and must have sounded incredible when played live by the subsequent lineups of the band. Opener “Ride, Darkhorse Ride” is one of such songs, obviously recalling the spirit of Eddie with those melodic riffs and galloping rhythms while featuring an obvious chorus repeated ad nauseam that ends up being very catchy. “Skeletal Onslaught” is another favorite, with some stop-and-go dynamics amidst more catchy melodic riffs, those changes in its structure making it stand among the simple and all too similar-sounding tracks. But my favorite song here, aside from “Destroy the Orcs”, is closer “Balls of Ice” with ridiculous pro-metal lyrics that are priceless and would make Manowar blush. So cheesy! So tasty! This track is hilariously good, a modern fist-pumping metal anthem with a catchier-than-the-flu chorus. Also, this is the one in which Rich's bass lines are more appreciated. But like the rest of the compositions, it doesn't have anything mind-blowing besides Pipes' voice, but everything just gels together magnificently.

Though a far cry in quality from what they would accomplish a couple of years later with a more committed line up, Battlecry Under a Wintersun serves as a relatively good, campy, modern yet still retro USPM initial LP for this band, and though definitely flawed, I find it enjoyable enough to spin it once in a while. In fact, I prefer this to most of the Stratovarius sound-alikes from the European scene (or Euro-power sounding) that have great levels of virtuosity but zero personality. The cheese flavor would remain a constant in 3 Inches of Blood's discography, but not all of its founding members took it as seriously as others. Hence this original lineup was doomed to break up, leaving Cam Pipes, originally only a guest for their first EP, along with founding member and co-frontman Jamie Hoper as the sole survivors and quest perpetuators of the 3 Inches of Blood adventure.

Brain freeze while on the battlefield. - 73%

hells_unicorn, March 3rd, 2012

During the latter days of the power metal revival, there were some Johnny-come-lately types that began filtering their way out of North America, sporting a sound a good bit different from what Europe was. This naturally excludes the likes of Kamelot and Steel Prophet who had roots going back to earlier than 2001 when it suddenly became cool to have a retro sound again. Among the better representatives of this group was a ragtag outfit out of Vancouver called 3 Inches Of Blood, sporting a sound that could be likened to a cryptic mixture of Manowar, King Diamond, and even a latent bit of frosty melodeath meets power metal sound popularized by Children Of Bodom.

The band’s somewhat uneven debut “Battlecry Under A Wintersun” is a pretty straight-lined affair in terms of style, but much less so in its delivery. The riff work is heavily derivative and indicative of several bouncier NWOBHM acts along the lines of early 80s Saxon and Iron Maiden, and the production job definitely hearkens back to the same era with a very restrained drum sound along with an archaic 80s guitar sound that is generally only employed by the likes of Slough Feg or some other retro band of this day and age. But the vocal character is another matter entirely, marrying together a sepulchral banshee wail that captures something along the lines of a heavily nasal King Diamond falsetto and a high pitched toneless shouting style resting somewhere between a hardcore and Gothenburg sound.

This marriage of old and a tiny bit of new prove somewhat effective, but find itself largely stuck within a one-dimensional songwriting paradigm that actually makes Hammerfall look varied. Pick any song from the gallop heavy lead off “Ride Darkhorse Ride”, the more coasting yet still fast and bouncy “Skeletal Onslaught” or the return of the night of the living gallop riffs with twice as many over the top high notes “Hall Of Heroes”, and the same picture of early 80s barbarians with a little helping of occult mysticism will leap out instantaneously. With the exception of the last aforementioned song, nothing on here even breaks the 4 minute mark, and likewise plays it very safe from a standpoint of structure, though the vocal niche and semi-comical lyrical delivery preclude anything that would be outwardly ambitious in compositional craftsmanship.

The one thing that sort of keeps this album from being skip-worthy is that it still manages to be fun despite the lack of anything really intricate going on. With the exception of some of the vocal work, this album could have been written 28 years ago and would have been considered par for the course for a band trying to compete with Satan or Mercyful Fate for the shot at being the most extreme example of what was the trailblazing, but is today considered traditional heavy metal. This is something that I wouldn’t say about most of the German bands that were getting big at the time that were at least modernizing their production practices and trying to break away from the exaggerated falsetto singing style of the 80s. But for those who wonder what it would be like to hear King Diamond sing about battles rather than witches and ghosts, or hear Iron Maiden without all of the literature and cinema references, this is an acceptable guilty pleasure.

A decent album, mindless, but decent. - 61%

burningsynthetic, March 5th, 2007

I had heard that 3 Inches of Blood was a joke band some time around their second album's release. I felt it was just an odd rumor, yet with such brilliant song titles as "Balls of Ice" and "Destroy the Orcs" you can't help but sort of agree with them.

But, rumors aside, the only certain thing is that joke band or not, they are very capable of making music that is at least decent, yet very far from being perfect. The guitar riffing is a bit lacking in the technical department, but still maintains the overall energy and effect. The drum work, in my opinion is the best out of all the other members of the band. It's dynamic and played by a somewhat skilled musician.

The songs are all very short, with the longest track being "Hall of Heroes" and coming in at 4:21. The rest fall in the 3 minute area. But it's best this way, the songs don't hold enough promise or even desire to make them epic or long in any way.

The band works with a screamer and a singer. The singer very strongly reminds me of a Painkiller era Rob Halford with his work. Yet this is kind of an insult to Rob as Cam doesn't have near the vocal prowess that Rob does. The singer is utilized mostly in the choruses and the screamer takes up most of the verse territory, making it seem like an offbeat metalcore band. But the songs are a great departure from metalcore, with most of the songs here having to deal with the sort of medieval subject matter you'd find in Tolkien novels or at times some cheezefest b-movie. But you get what you pay for here, don't expect to have your mind blown with any sort of brilliance or virtuous playing, it's all pretty un-tapped talent wise, at least for their first effort.

Stand out tracks are pretty much all even numbered tracks. Being; "Destroy the Orcs", which was later to be re-recorded for their second album, "Journey to the Promised Land", "Lady Deathwish" and "Curse of the Lighthouse Keeper".

Promising debut from Canadian band - 68%

golgotha85, April 7th, 2004

3 Inches of Blood is an interesting band and one that's been pretty difficult for me to find my real opinion of. On one hand, they're fellow Canadians (always a plus in my slighty nationalistic book) and they play almost faultlessly (technicality is not an issue), but on the other hand, we've all heard this band before. 3 Inches of Blood wears their influences on their sleeve all too obviously. That's not necessarily bad in this case though. After all, it is a debut album.

Battlecry Under a Winter sun is definitely a fun record, especially after a good night of partying and/or drinking (albeit, drinking alone is usually not a good sign). It's the kind of album that makes you want to throw the horns into the air and bang your fucking head until it falls off. That's one of the problems with it though... once you stop banging your head and put down the horns, you start to realize that the music doesn't go much anywhere. In fact, you'll probably be tempted to press stop on your CD player (or MP3 player, whichever) and go put on some Mercyful Fate, Iron Maiden, Motorhead or any of the other countless (admittedly better) bands that are obvious influences to 3 Inches of Blood. The hardcore screams thrown into the mix don't really make up for the fact that the album is completely derivative and the riffs seem to be re-hashed from the same damn NWOBHM pool bands have been fishing out of for ages.

But again... it's still a damn good record. I'm just as confused as you are, believe me! 3 Inches of Blood seems like the kind of band that would be amazing live, but falls short on studio recordings. There's a lot of potential in the music, but the band needs to break away from their influences a bit more to have more of an impact.

The highlight of the album is definitely "Kill The Orcs" for me. If you don't feel the need to sing along and headbang to that one, you're either dead or not a metal fan.

All in all, a promising debut from a Canadian band that really confuses the fuck out of me. Just listen to it. Make sure to keep your Mercyful Fate collection out of reach though, just in case you inexplicably get cravings to listen to it before you've given 3 Inches of Blood a fair chance and you'll have a great time!