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Solidly traditional and surprisingly polished - 85%

failsafeman, September 14th, 2010

In the last few years traditional metal has experienced a revival of sorts, with countless old bands reforming and releasing their first new albums in decades, as well as a surprising number of young kids exploring metal's roots and discovering that some of their dad's music isn't so lame after all. Though Canada sported a fair number of quality traditional metal acts in the 80s (Anvil, Deaf Dealer, Kraken, to name a few), the country was never very well-represented when compared to their southern neighbors or European cousins. In light of that, it's rather strange that today Canada seems to be right at the forefront of the trad revival, with bands like Striker, Evil Survives, and now Skull Fist leading the charge.

Heavier than Metal, with its silly title and album art, might strike the listener at first glance as some kind of ironic, excessively self-referential release from a joke act, perhaps a side-project of members from better-known bands attempting to condescendingly pay homage to their ancestors; luckily, all such trepidations vanish completely upon first listen, like farts in a strong wind. While the trad revival encompasses a surprisingly wide variety of sounds, with influences ranging from USPM to NWOBHM to Running Wild-style speed, the worship on display here has more to do with strictly minor-key heavy metal, perhaps with slight touches of power and thrash in the riffing style. Vocals aside, countrymen Deaf Dealer provide an apt point of reference, the debut album especially. However, Skull Fist tend to speed things up a bit, setting a brisk pace, and the vocals follow suit, sounding like a helium-huffing, sped-up version of a typical slightly-whiny NWOBHM singer (Kevin Heybourne of Angel Witch perhaps). Lots of wailed, drawn-out "ahhhs" and "yeahs" to be had here, if you catch my drift. Not quite outstanding but the vocals are capable and fit the music well. Riffs gallop quite capably within their tradition, while being just inventive enough to interest even this jaded reviewer. Harmony plays a large part in the riff structure, and in "Blackout", the requisite "Egyptian-sounding" song, there's even a delightfully unexpected and well-executed thrash break midway through. Special note must be given to the excellent guitar solos, which are surprisingly technical and fluid coming from a band so young, and while there is a hint of showing off, they know to keep things moving, to the point where I actually found myself wanting to hear more of those solos.

Overall Heavier than Metal is a solid cube of concise heavy metal, like a car put through a compactor and then thrown at your head. Skull Fist didn't waste my time for a second with this EP, and even though they didn't blow my mind right out of the gate, I did enjoy myself a hell of a lot once I got past the silly image to the serious music. Great stuff for headbanging here, folks. I'm very much looking forward to a full-length from these guys. Though doggedly mediocre bands like White Wizzard might be the public face of the trad revival, it's bands like Skull Fist that make it worthwhile.