posted on 2/2006 By:
‘Shotgun a couple beers in the parking lot, $5 cover at the door, high-tops, jeans, and black leather jacket’ styled Traditional Heavy Metal…from Australia...
Wow. Did I fall asleep and wake up back in Cleveland, 22 years ago? Seriously, when I first spun this latest release from Australia’s Black Steel, I felt like I was transported back to 1983, lined up outside of Flash’s in downtown Cleveland, excited about an evening of local Metal. It was a time when bands like Breaker, Shok Paris, and Winter’s Bane made the rounds seemingly every weekend, and played to bars packed with crazed Metalheads. Black Steel could have easily shared the stage with the same hard-working Metal blokes most every town seemed to have back in the 80s…except it’s 2006, so you know these guys have day jobs.
And what the hell’s going on ‘down under’ lately? If France is the latest bastion of Black Metal, Australia’s certainly become the den of Traditional/Power Metal. There are loads of bands of this ilk from Australia just waiting to be discovered by fans of the genre, and the internet is doing an excellent job of delivering the goods to the people that really care to hear it. Major record labels are no longer needed.
On to the goods at hand. Here’s a quote from bassist, Dave Harrison, one of the founding members of the band:
“Black Steel is all about being true to yourself and not conforming to whatever fashion trend that’s happening at the moment. I could care less what’s currently popular - we play what we want, without compromise.”
Boy-fuckin’-howdy, that’s the bottom line here folks. Hellhammer offers up 11 tracks of uncompromising, mid-80s influenced Traditional Metal, and they don’t give a fuck if you think the sound’s dated, irrelevant, or cheesy. No grandiose keyboards, no dueling guitar solos, no orchestrations, no 10-minute long songs, and nary a horse hoof or clanging sword sample to be heard. It's just dirty, mid-paced, unadorned, fist-pumping Metal. Think along the lines of the more straight ahead styled tunes from Battle Hymns era Manowar. While certainly not blazing a new trail, headbangers like “Annihilate”, “Slaughterhouse”, and “Relentless Force” do a fine job of getting an old rager’s blood pumping, and ballads like “Up Against the World” and “Live for the Fight” visit slower, more melodic grounds, without hitting the sappiness many of their European counterparts often lean towards.
The release is not without its faults, however. At times things are a little too unadorned for my tastes - something that could certainly be resolved if another guitarist were added to help fill out the sound. And despite the very strong performance of vocalist, Matt Williams, at times he tries to go well beyond his range for high notes that probably shouldn’t be there in the first place (the end of track 6, “Going Down”, for example).
All four members of this band know exactly how to execute this style quite well, but it’s doubtful Black Steel’s gonna convert anyone that’s already averse to the genre...which alienates them from a significant portion of the Metal community. But then again, they’re obviously not doing it for the money, they’re doing it because they love playing and supporting this style of Metal! If you’re interested in taking a trip down memory lane, and you’ve listened to that Chastain album one too many times, do yourself a favor and check these guys out.
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