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Cloven Hoof - Eye of the sun - 50%

Radagast, November 14th, 2006

As far as reunion albums go, "Eye of the sun" makes a bit of a mockery of the concept – of the four primary musicians that recorded the album, only bass player Lee Payne has previously been part of Cloven Hoof, the semi-legendary English band last sighted in 1989 with "A sultan's ransom." That album was an epic slice of power metal from a band that had worked hard through the eighties with minimal recognition that only really received the praise it deserved several years after its release.

After listening to "Eye of the sun," one has to wonder why Payne bothered to revive the Hoof name after so many years only to record a style of music very distant from what the old version of the band made their name with. Rather than continue in the style of "A sultan's ransom," what we have here is a collection of mostly-midtempo hard rockers. New vocalist Matt Moreton has a very different style to his 'predecessor' Russ North. The soaring falsetto of their previous albums has been replaced by a very American-sounding midrange that I don't think is very well suited to a heavy metal band. Moreton is a capable vocalist with a strong voice, but the fact that he often reminds me of Jason Perry of the unremittingly awful UK rock/punk/nu metal/whatever's-popular-at-the-time band A is telling.

Despite an overall old-school feel to proceedings, there are a few cringe worthy moments of modern tough guy attitude seeping from a few tracks. Payne himself throws in some awful shouty vocals from time to time, and the pseudo-rapped intro to 'Absolute power' would be hilarious if it weren't so embarrassing.

So far it may sound like I'm giving the album a bad write-up, but on the whole it is a fairly enjoyable listen. As noted above, what we have here is essentially an old school metal album with modern crunch in the guitar department. There are a few occasions where the pace is picked up notably – opener 'Inquisitor,' despite slowing down for the chorus, tears out of the traps with a quasi-thrash riff and the overall album highlight 'Golgotha' features a terrific out-of-nowhere break in the middle almost in the style of classic New York bands like Overkill and Nuclear Assault.

On the whole however, 'Eye of the sun' tends to chug along at the same pace for its duration. This presents the biggest problem with the album – the lack of variety. Too many songs feature a chorus that is just the title being repeated again and again. Sometimes this works – the previously-mentioned ' Golgotha' is extremely atmospheric and opens a closing trio of songs that are probably the best on the album, finishing with 'Angels in hell,' a genuine epic with a fist-pumping chorus.

Other than a few instances of contrived posturing, the only track that really stands out as 'bad' is 'Cyberworld,' which is laid-back, and dare I say it, sunny enough to be mistaken for a radio rock track. Moreton's modern vocal style does little to shake this notion and the track leaves me feel almost uncomfortable. Otherwise , 'Eye of the sun' is collection of solid but fairly homgeneous traditional metal tracks that would have served as a fairly promising debut for a new band - but for an album carrying the name and thus expectations attached to a Cloven Hoof 'reunion' it all comes across as somewhat lacking.

Only a few weeks ago from the time this review was written, it was announced that Russ North and two other Hoof members of years gone by would be rejoining for the next album, which will apparently be more in the style of 'A sultan's ransom' – all of which makes you wonder what the point in releasing this album was, exactly. Normally at this stage of a review like this one I'd be saying that with any luck the band could iron out the problems on the album and build on the promising aspects – when three quarters of the line-up have been discarded and a complete change in direction has been promised, its blatantly obvious that Payne has no intention of doing so.

If Cloven Hoof keep on producing albums for a few years, this one will sit as something of an oddity in their discography – the album that launched their comeback with what was effectively a different band picking up the slack. It should be appreciated for what it is; a reasonable but rather inconsequential offering of classic metal with no real place in the grand scheme of things – exactly the way it was intended to be, apparently.


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