Progressive music is my first love but some may call it intellectual, deep, thoughtful or even pretentious. A lot of it is music that takes your time and attention and consequently rewards you for your endeavour and perseverance, unlike most Heavy Metal music which is just balls out, hairy-chested fun in the main and doesn’t take itself too seriously in any way, shape or form.
A lot of metal music has a short shelf-life but, while it lasts it really is fun and infectious, especially the music that is a nod to the classic eighties era of spandex and two foot tall hairstyles, the era of excess and, crucially, it is fun to review too!
Flying in to the review queue with a superb 80’s inspired cover are Swedish Heavy Metal band Air Raid and their latest release ‘Point of Impact’. Formed in 2009, they released their first EP ‘Danger Ahead’ in 2011 and followed this with their first full length record ‘Night of the Axe’ in 2013. New vocalist Arthur W Andersson, Andreas Johansson (guitars), Johan Karlsson (guitars), Robin Utbult (bass) and David Hermansson (drums) started work on the new album in June 2014 and it is said to be more melodic and have better songwriting than their previous releases.
Tell you what, let’s press play and dive straight in at the metaphorical deep end of this release. Track one Bound to Destroy begins with a frenetic drum beat and guitar riff that has an almost punk feel to it, the vocals begin, hard and urgent and with that definitive 80’s metal sound and the roller coaster ride has begun. You are not allowed to take a pause as the breathless journey continues, completed by a hyper-paced rocking and rolling guitar solo and twin guitar flashing run. All hell but plenty of notion, not a bad start at all, the crazily high vocal run out is hilariously brilliant. Madness begins with another thumping riff but with the notch turned down to ten from eleven perhaps. Almost as if a time machine has transported the band into the future form the 1980’s, my head is nodding and my foot is tapping as this rollocking, rip-roaring metal fest blows your socks clean off. The vocals are deeply rooted in that signature heavy metal sound and fit the stereotype perfectly. Inspired drumming and thunderous guitars abound as this grin inducing riff fest rides roughshod over everything that gets in its way firing off a scorching solo along the way.
Can it get any better? You bet your ass it can!! Victim of the Night begins in a slightly unassuming banner with a Metallicaesque guitar introduction and soulful vocals but it isn’t long at all before the blue touch paper is lit and, once again, we’re off! A monstrous riff and humongous drums catapult the unwary right into the middle of, possibly, the best track on the album. Urgency abounds in the verse and the vocals are precise and full of humanity but the chorus will just transport you back in time to quality stadium rock and a huge nostalgia overload. That’s not to say that it isn’t relevant today but I quite like the sepia tinged memories it induces. The guitar solo just mesmerises and leaves me giggling like a lunatic as it burns brighter than the sun. This track is worth the price of entry alone. Can the band keep the quality up? Let’s see with the next track, another frenzied riff opens proceedings on Wildfire and the dial is most definitely cranked back up to eleven and the loud pedal is pressed firmly down. Drums that appear to be in fast forward and a frenzied solo just add to the hell for leather moment, a short and succinct track that leaves you with a grin a mile wide.
With a title like Flying Fortress, to me, it’s going to be a) heavy and b) most likely instrumental and Air Raid don’t let you down with this little beauty. Power, precision and downright metal angst are delivered in your general direction at a high velocity and you are caught up in the musical maelstrom. It brings to mind Def Leppard’s ‘Switch 625’ to my bleeding ears, just a hell of a lot heavier! Energetic intro? check, blazing riff? check! And we are off again. Vengeance is another speed metal inspired tune that enters stage left like a blazing comet. Maniacal drumming and mighty, persuasive riffs are the order of the day, add in the dynamic vocals and a searing riff and all the elements are present and correct. Like the musical equivalent of a violent rodeo ride it is compelling and downright scary at the same time!
The Fire Within turns it down ever so slightly to take a more melodic route through 80’s metal. With a riff that Randy Roads himself would be proud of, there is a touch of Hair Metal added to the mix, you can almost smell the hairspray in fact. The riff is always at the back of your mind, driving on this dramatic metalfest and the vocals have the required amount of showmanship, add in a de-rigeur solo and all is well in the world. So, this brilliant homage to classic heavy metal has to come to a close and it does so with aplomb. We Got the Force is another supersonic slice of music that drags you along by the collar screaming for more. The riff is played almost in double time and the percussion is rapid and electric. The vocals are played just right and the guitar run and solo are fantastically over the top and in your face. The track comes to a close and you just sit there manically grinning at the 34 minutes of metal that you have just had the pleasure of listening to.
So it is big and it is clever, what it is not is anything new or life changing but, does it have to be? If you want highbrow and aloof please look elsewhere, what you have here is hugely enjoyable hell ride of an album that, when you just want some fun and some cranked up metal, will deliver in spades. In thirty four minutes, I have just had the most fun with music that I have head in quite a long while and, if that’s not recommendation enough, I don’t know what is!