3 Inches of Blood - Fire Up the Blades
Record Label: Roadrunner Records
Release Date: June 26, 2007
Nostalgia never sounded so good.
And before you go any further, you have to understand that, at first listen, it's easy to try and pigeonhole this record as a throwback of sorts, as it's filled with metal cliches reborn. Most scenesters are gonna listen to the first ten seconds, and turn up their noses at something that sounds "too retro" to be relevant in the modern music scene. However, given a little bit of a deeper listen, this is one of those records that grows on you like a goddamn fungus. It's an album that holds enough melodicism and traditional metal cred to satisfy the middle-aged ex-stoners who lived through the 80's, but it also possesses a heaviness that will repeatedly put you on your ass. It's something you wanna fucking BLARE out of your car stereo. It's an album to drink to. It's an album that may produce random spurts of headbanging, horn-throwing, and Exorcist-style projectile vomit [...actually, you've probably just had one too many beers, man.] It's not an album for the scene kids, or the current trendies who think Job For A Cowboy is the greatest metal band ever. If you've read thus far and already lost interest, I'm not surprised, nor do I blame you. Poor misinformed soul.
But as for the rest of you... crack open a Heineken, raise the horns, and get ready for an intense album of tasty riffage, thundering double bass, screaming solos, and and all forms of metal mayhem. For those of you who don't know, here's a quick overview of this band. 3 Inches of Blood are a Canadian metal band that have been cranking out traditional/power metal [ala Judas Priest/Iron Maiden] since they formed in early 2000. Their first two albums went relatively unknown by the record buying public [despite having a minor hit in "Deadly Sinners", off their second record] but they have gained and maintained a large underground fanbase. Following the release of 2004's Advance and Vanquish, internal conflicts caused a the band to lose all but two of its members: founding screamer Jamie Hooper, and co-vocalist Cam Pipes. This would be considered a deathblow to many bands, but the remaining boys in 3IoB soldiered on, and three years later, they have come back with an entirely new lineup of musicians, with vocalists being the only remaining members from past lineups. And they've come back with a vengeance.
The album opens up with the slow, ominous harmonies and military march-style drumming of "Through The Horned Gate". Gives you just enough time to vaguely realize what the hell is coming, and then explodes out of the gate with the REAL opener, a mean little ditty called "Night Marauders". Opening with a fast, galloping Maiden-on-crack riff, the song kicks you in the gut and simply does not let up. And thus, the pace for the album is set. Led by the intense and technical drumming of newcomer Alexei Rodriguez [Yeah, you never heard double bass and blast beats like this outta their LAST drummer... what the hell was his name, anyway?], this album packs much more of a punch than their previous offerings, and while the classic metal influence is still apparent, the album as a whole is much heavier and more aggressive, with thrash and death metal influences creeping into their sound. The drumming was always an issue [for me] with the band's previous material, because it was always fairly repetitive and bland, and affected the music as such. This problem has been fixed on the new record. Backed by a killer new rhythm section, the dual guitar attack delivers song after song of heavy [yet deliciously catchy] riffs, soaring harmonies, and intense solos. Add two vocalists on top of the extremely tight instrumental section, and you have a fantastic combination. Yes, did I forget to mention they have two vocalists? The dual-vox routine isn't all that rare anymore, but up to this point, it's mostly been practiced by bland mallcore bands who hope that adding a screamer will make their music a bit edgier. No, the combination here is something I seriously doubt you've heard before. Jamie Hooper belts out a fairly generic, yet well-delivered metalcore scream, adding a modern aggression to the music. The other vocalist, Cam Pipes [and never have I heard someone who so lived up to their name] wails like an air-raid siren over the mix, singing about swords and demons and raping and pillaging and the teeth of sea-monsters [wait.... what?]. Halford himself would be proud.
And while Fire Up The Blades album is noticably heavier, it's also quite a bit more accessible. The boys in 3 Inches abandoned some of the all-out speed and ridiculously cheesy lyrics of their previous records ["Destroy The Orcs", anyone?] for some slower, chugging riffs and a thrashy, aggressive sound. The production is clean [courtesy of Mr. Joey Jordison of Slipknot fame], and the songs are all well written and concise, getting the point across without wandering too much or basking in self-indulgence. Stand-out tracks include the opener, "Night Marauders" [which I've already described], the unabashed metal anthem "Trial of Champions" [complete with organs in the chorus, which I thought was a brilliant touch], the thrashy, Slayer-esque "Demon's Blade", the speedy, blastbeat-ridden "Infinite Legions", and the medieval-sounding instrumental that closes the album, "Rejoice In The Fire of Man's Demise" [yeah... catchy title, huh?].
All semantics aside, this is a metal album, plain and simple. It combines the elements that us classic-metal buffs know and love, with a speed, aggression, and heaviness that puts it right up there with the majority of modern metal bands. It's melodic, but heavy. Fast, but catchy. Over-the-top, yet refined. It's old mixed with new, and the result is a fun, energetic record that deserves a few more spins than your first impression might tell you. Has it been done before? Yes. Is it still a great listen? You bet your fucking codpiece, it is.