3 Inches of Blood - Advance and vanquish 4/5
1. Fear on the bridge (Upon the boiling sea I)
2. Deadly sinners
3. Revenge is a vulture
4. Dominion of deceit
5. Premonition of pain
6. Lord of the storm (Upon the boiling sea II)
9. Axes of evil
10. Crazy nights
11. Destroy the orcs
12. The phantom of the crimson cloak
13. Isle of eternal despair (Upon the boiling sea III)
This CD had 2 strikes against it before I ever popped it into my player. First, I can't for the life of me remember the last time the infamously trend-ridden Roadrunner Records offered up a solid traditional metal release (not counting Nightwish, which they only licensed). The old Annihilator recordings? The early Solitude Aeturnus CDs? Xentrix? King Diamond? It's been an awfully long drought. Given the vast wasteland of flavor-of-the-month garbage on which its empire is presently constructed, I reflexively view any Roadrunner product with skepticism. 2nd, the moniker 3 Inches of Blood is an instant buzzkill, sounding well-suited for a metalcore or nu-metal act, rather than anything that might appeal to a reader of this site.
Armed with this predisposition, imagine my surprise to find that 'Advance and vanquish' is a very impressive power metal CD. Musically, this CD is nothing short of exceptional. The twin guitars of Sunny Dhak and Bob Froese are well-versed in classic dueling Maiden harmonies and timeless European true metal riffage. The band gallops and crunches through one uptempo number after another, with the wonderful old-school melodies and catchy riffs propelling the compact, exciting, anthemic songs. I hear some Running Wild, some Iced Earth, and some Steel Prophet in the relentless attack, but these guys bring a ferocity to the fray, injecting a sense of urgency to the proceedings that prevents them from coming across as mere copycats. If you can listen to the likes of "Deadly sinner", "Crazy Nights", "Wykydtron" and "Lord of the storm" even one time without humming them to yourself incessantly, you have more restraint than I.
Aside from the killer guitars and catchy songs, 'Advance and vanquish' has much to commend itself to the 21st century metal freak. Those who enjoy fantasy/battle lyrics will be enraptured by this CD. I mean, how can you go wrong with song titles like "The phantom of the crimson cloak", "Destroy the orcs", "Revenge is a vulture", and of course the seafaring trilogy, "Upon the boiling sea" parts I, II and III? Then there's the utterly professional production job courtesy of knob-twiddling whiz Neil Kernon, who makes 3 Inches of Blood sound totally heavy, totally polished, and totally spontaneous/reckless all at once. And the entire package is topped off by the fantastic fantasy cover painting of renowned metal artist Edward J. Repka (perhaps most famed for the Megadeth 'Peace sells' sleeve).
Unfortunately, there's a catch. A big one. The vocals are outright bad. 3 Inches of Blood feature 2 singers. Primary vocalist Cam Pipes (nice stage name) has a one-dimensional screechy rasp that sounds like an amalgamation of David Wayne (ex-Metal Church) and Gerrit P. Mutz (Sacred Steel), but perpetually stuck in the upper register. After 5 minutes or so, Pipes' monotone shrieks become annoying to the point of distraction. And secondary singer Jamie Hooper makes matters worse because he is a death metal screamer a la Tomas Lindberg (Nightrage, etc.) who is completely out of place. With good vocals, this CD would be a 5/5 in my book. As it stands, I'll award it a 4/5 on the strength of the amazing music, but with the caveat that the vocals may send many scrambling for the exits.
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