3 Inches of Blood – Long Live Heavy Metal (2012)

Posted: March 31, 2012 in Music

Usually when you put the word “Canadian” in front of something, it has a tendency to soften the meaning of the word. Canadian bacon? Let’s face it, it’s ham. Canadian whiskey? Blech. Even when it comes to music, the Canadians seem to be the lighter, tamer version of their international counterparts. Remember Bryan Adams, anyone?

That said, there have been some exceptions to the rule. One of those exceptions is British Columbian legends 3 Inches Of Blood. Since 2000, the band – led by metal throwback Cam Pipes – has been hammering out album after album of unique hard rock that lays nicely somewhere between Maiden, Motorhead and Metallica with its new school take on old school greatness. Pipes’ high-pitched screams are the type of stuff that would make King Diamond jealous, and the biker-tough attitude comes across strong as steel.

With four solid releases already under their belt, the next chapter comes in the form of Long Live Heavy Metal – and introduces us to yet another new member. Even though the band’s has been pretty stable since 2007, the need to change things up has again reared it’s head. Taking over bass duties is former Strapping Young Lad member and fellow Canadian Byron Stroud, and he brings a ferocious amount of skill to the table. The previous albums have garnered a fair amount of attention, and the live shows are of the “must-see” variety, but make no mistake: this isn’t the radio-friendly metalcore or watered down heavy metal everyone is talking about these days. 3IOB is something completely different, and something you should be paying attention to (if you aren’t already).

It’s hard to define the exact genre of music these bearded warriors hammer out, but that’s part of the attraction. The influences come from speed metal, black metal, and such legendary acts as Judas Priest and Saxon, but to point to any one style for definition is as difficult as it is unnecessary. These guys just rock hard, and Long Live Heavy Metal is a tour de force of blended styles and melted speakers. Sure – some see this band as a parody of british metal, but they aren’t joking around, as the new album proves…

Opening the CD is the simply titled “Metal Woman,” and while it’s going to be hard to shake the naysayers with such a cheesy title, the track absolutely smokes. The duel guitar intro has a viking metal feel and crescendos to a small Stroud showcase that opens the floodgates to Pipes’, well, pipes. The immediately feel is that the songwriting is a little improved. Previous albums had this sword-wielding feel to them that worked at times and fell a little flat at others, but this time around it comes across a bit more straight-forward metal without all the mythical silliness.

Some habits are, however, hard to break – as is proven in “My Sword Will Not Sleep.” The music and vocals are tight as a nun’s nether-regions, but you can’t escape the Dungeons & Dragons vibe the lyrics throw at you. In small doses, this works for 3IOB – and it works here – but I can’t help but hope that this is one of only a few tracks of this nature.

“Leather Lord” – which felt like a homage to all the leather clad metal gods of yesteryear – had an awesome old school vibe to it, complete with screeching solos and drumming madness. The lyrics weren’t overly impressive, but who has time to dissect lyrics when your banging your head as fast as you can…

I don’t remember hearing too many instrumentals from 3 Inches of Blood over the years, but we get a Cam-less treat in “Chief And The Blade.” The track has a heavy western-meets-Zepplin sound accented by light wind instruments and simple tribal drum strikes. Nice to see the band expanding a bit, so we’ll call this one a “nice” surprise.

“Dark Messenger” wipes away the pretty stuff quickly with more powerful riffage and vocal belts. If any of the songs here sounded a lot like Judas Priest, it would be this one. Harmonic solos and note-by-note bass lead the way, and some deeper, spoken vocals (presumably performed by guitarist Justin Hagberg) add a nice touch to a track that is metal at its core. Nothing fancy, but nothing done wrong.

The metal world mourned collectively when Ronnie James Dio passed away in May of 2010, and 3IOB take there turn in the tribute circle with “Look Out,” and what better way to show their respect than by doing their best Rainbow imitation, organ solo and all. I miss Ronnie – not only for his music, but for the outright influence on so many artists in rock and metal. We’ll never see another one like him, and this track is a great memorial.

“4000 Torches” is another medieval battle anthem, and while Pipes and company have done a decent job keeping these to a minimum, this one almost felt forced. The harmonies were flat, and the simplicity of the song kept it from going anywhere. The solo was nice, but even it failed in that it was a bit on the short side. It’s worth a listen or two, but there is better stuff available on this disc.

I’m on the fence with the next track, “Leave It On The Ice.” Musically, it’s a powerhouse – loaded with thrash riffs and hyperspeed drums. Lyrically, it’s about hockey. That’s right, hockey. 3 Inches of Blood usually has me thinking of warriors and demons, not Canada’s national sport. I guess the sport DOES have battles and blood and stuff, but I’m still not sure. I’m more of a baseball guy, anyway…

Taking the battle from the nordic fjords to the ice arena to the – high seas? You betcha. “Die For Gold” is a ode to pirates, old and new – but don’t go thinking it’s some goofy Swashbuckle song, Pipes keeps it metal throughout. It seems to lose its way a bit towards the end, but a solid guitar riff at the finish “rights the ship” (sorry, had to do it…)

Some of the best tempo and guitar work is on “Storming Juno,” which presumably is about the German occupation of France’s Juno Beach and the allied invasion. I appreciate Pipes’ vast knowledge of history, but frankly the reference is a little too obscure to care about. Musically, it kills with a riotous stomp, but the lyrics were too complex to care about, and when I can’t get into Cam’s message, his voice gets a bit grating. Moving on…

“Men of Fortune” is another one of the less-than-stellar tracks, and while there is some nifty guitar work along the way, comes across as pretty stale for the most part. There’s even some weird low-toned chanting chorus nonsense in the middle. As with most of 3IOB’s “misses” it still finishes strong, but it felt like a little too late here.

Just when I was resigned to the fact that the album had fallen off course, we get the second instrumental of the album to close things out. This is a wonderful part-acoustic, part metal jam that builds itself slowly into a warhorse of a track. It’s got a folksy tone to it meshed in with a viking’s march, and even throws in a hero’s chant at the end. And that’s what I felt about this whole album in general.

3IOB are heroes. Heroes in the sense that they are pouring their heart and soul into keeping the sound of “classic” metal alive. Sure, they misfire the cannons from time to time, but I’d sure rather have that than the style completely dying out. It’s getting harder and harder to find six inch studded wrist wraps, and not many give a fuck about Saxon anymore – so I applaud these guys for doing what they do on their terms. Long Live Heavy Metal isn’t just an album, it’s a warrior’s cry as the last bastion of a great sound slowly being drowned out by corporate nu-metal and talentless, headline-grabbing bands. Fight on, brave soldiers. I’ll battle with ya until death.

7/10

Tracklist:
01 – Metal Woman
02 – My Sword Will Not Sleep
03 – Leather Lord
04 – Chief And The Blade
05 – Dark Messenger
06 – Look Out
07 – 4000 Torches
08 – Leave It On The Ice
09 – Die For Gold (Upon The Boiling Sea IV)
10 – Storming Juno
11 – Men Of Fortune
12 – One For The Ditch

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