Lick the Blade - Graveyard of empires 3.5/5

Reviewed: 9-18-09


1. Prelude to war
2. Thanatos
3. Royal blood
4. Resistance, rebellion and death
5. Graveyard of empires
6. From pandemonium to chaos
7. Red warning
8. Sea of apathy
9. Voyage of the damned
10. Rex mundi
11. Stalker
12. Lick the Blade

Cleveland based recording artist Lick the Blade are the new act currently being championed by Auburn Records. Bill Peters, produced, with the assistance of Don Depew. His awesome independent label, Auburn Records, are celebrating their 25th anniversary, and the wonderful discovery of such renown talent. This year, Bill has chosen to primarily focus upon these compelling, hungry young lads.

Unfortunately, due to personal concerns and the unstable Ohio economy, Bill has had to concentrate on his real job and his family, and not so much on his label; therefore, many great acts are still awaiting their future releases. The Black Death re-issue will eventually see the light, and I am willing to wait. His last, somewhat successful thrust was for Eternal Legacy, and he assures me that their new/2nd CD 'Lifeless alive' will be out in November.

I had the honour to hang out with Bill and the Cleveland elite last week while watching Doro, and my still favourite Cleveland based act Destructor. Bill introduced me to Ted Anderson, the vocalist for Lick the Blade. Ted is a dwarvish, stocky, outspoken, short-haired man. He looked like a hard-ass, donning his Vader shirt; but he kindly bought me and the wife some liquid refreshment to slake our thirst; when the Peabody's venue wanted over $1 for a cup of tap water with ice! He hardly seemed like the vocalist or frontman for a classic metal act, but he does a fine job of echoing his ancestors.

Lick the Blade are, indeed, true and traditional metal. If you are familiar with those bands who played this summer's Warriors of Metal Fest, like Aska and Twisted Tower Dire (and their vocalist Johnny Aune's other North Carolina act - Viper), you get the idea of their sound. Fans of Destiny's End, Crescent Shield, Onward, etc. should also take notice. Primarily, Lick the Blade are very reminiscent of those classic Metal Blade early-80s acts, who continued the NWOBHM motif, and expanded upon it.

Speaking of Metal Blade, I just acquired the 2002 Complete 10-disc box set, with 9 CDs, and one DVD. This assortment does a fine job of representing the first 20 years of the label, and their influential acts. There are some great song selections, some killer rarities, but some seriously specious oversights, omitting the likes of Anacrusis, Obsession, Sacred Steel, Pandemonium, Liege Lord, Hades and Hirax.

I mention this, in light of the tragic death of C.J. Jenkins - the bass player of Faith or Fear - who suffered a fatal heart attack while performing on stage the previous Sunday. As I viewed the DVD, I was amazed at how many great souls have passed like Dave Pritchard of Armored Saint, J.D. Kimball of Omen, Alex Nelson of Lizzy Borden, etc.

Lick the Blade has a tendency to focus on themes of Antiquity. Their instrumental "Rex mundi" (which is Latin for "King of the world") and the song "Thanatos" (Greek for "death") are vibrant examples of this. "Thanatos" has made me carefully reflect on these many years, and each generation's experience. Metal Blade is but a parody of its once former self, with many lame acts now on their roster, doing better than the best of the past. Artists like Fates Warning are bearly hanging on by a thread. However, they did release the new Mercyful Fate 'Evil' single, and the King Diamond remasters will be out in October. I should also give hails and horns up for the new Ravage 'The end of tomorrow', which is damn good! I just received the new Austrian Death Machine CD today, and I plan to play it all weekend, along with new Shadows Fall - 2 awesome total thrash acts!

I am convinced that it is these early acts like Thrust, Savage Grace, Sound Barrier, Warrior, and their ilk, as well as the Cleveland icons, who laid the foundation for Lick the Blade. Thus, they proudly carry on the tradition, waving high the flag of hate and anger, proudly, into the future of the metal arena.

I choose not to nitpick or pink the less than spectacular aspects to this CD, which at times seems a bit rushed. I prefer to not too harshly censure the misgivings of this worthy debut. However, a small caviat should be enforced, as to prevent any future backlash. I know Bill worked very hard and effortlessly to have it out this summer; in order to promote Lick the Blade on their premiere performance at Headbanger's Open Air Festival. I must admit that some of the production is amiss, with an annoying hiss to be found on certain cuts. Also, the cover art is rather dull and complacent, being black, blue and bland. Surprisingly, the logo is just too simple for a band who have such a soul slicing appelative.

I certainly would not want to appear disingenuous, in this regard. I set these minor frustrations aside, knowing that Lick the Blade are not of the caliber of veterans such as Breaker, Shok Paris or Wretch, nor do they pretend to be. I still willingly recommend this band to fans of classic metal, and rally their cause. Just like Shadows Entwined, these boys need to be heard and seen. I first witnessed them 2 years ago, opening for Anvil, Raven and Pile Driver, at Bill's "Metal on Metal 25th Anniversary Radio Show" event.

The opening "Prelude" sets the pace for "Thanatos", a melodic war anthem which is replete with battle hymns in the true Omen meets Sacred Steel fashion. The trenchant and sanguinal "Royal blood" will appeal to fans of 3 Inches of Blood, whose latest CD 'Here waits thy doom' is currently in heavy rotation in my CD player. This song focuses on the Rosicrucian tradition, all of which made for great fodder for Dan Brown, and Michael Baigent when he wrote 'The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail'.

"Resistance, rebellion and death" seems as an homage to all great acts with these names; yet, it is not that thrashing, but more melodic. The lyrics for this song were written by guitarist Brian French. The title track showcases these blind guardians of eternity riffing and shredding like the once great Griffin, Deaf Dealer or Screamer.

The ever fast saga of Satan "From pandemonium to chaos" is of pure Sentinel Beast, Fischel's Beast substance and sustenance, with interestingly enough, a hint of early England's Satan being counted into the act, lustfully. There are also elements of Queensryche and Lethal. I just saw Lethal's guitarist this past Tuesday night at the amazing Metallica concert. Metallica are a metal institution, but it all began with Metal Blade Records, who I am certain inspired Bill Peters to form Auburn Records. Metal Blade should have promoted these local dudes in Lethal better.

The blistering and menacing "Stalker" penned by Anderson will appeal to those who like Zandelle, Ilium, Sacred Oath or Total Eclipse. The blood drenched graphic intent has me hungry for the new season of Dexter coming soon on Showtime. The band's theme "Lick the Blade" closes the CD with some appealing solo work by the other prominent lyricist and guitarist Tom Mowcomber. Many of the songs are credited to Chuck Cieslick, who I assume was a former member of the band, and still a strong supporter.

It would be ludicrous to just compare Lick the Blade to Iron Maiden, but their befitting tribute to "The rime of the Ancient Mariner" will surely be found in the Three part trilogy: "The seven seas of fate". The first song "Red warning" is about a nautical father's offering of his very soul to save his own son. This deal with the Devil has a strong Judas Priest meets Lizzy Borden inclination. "Sea of apathy" joins us with the son, now grown, facing the tulmultuous waves and raging waters of life. This is a picturesque Odyssey type theme, riddled by that annoying, noisome background hiss. The final chapter "Voyage of the damned" is an upbeat melody which initiates with Ted singing softly, in an a capella type manner. This tale of the children of the damned, echoes classic Warlord and Flotsam & Jetsam doomsday stylings. Bassist Mike Kurtz wrote the provocative and storm swelling lyrics.

All in all, as Lick the Blade haunt this 'Graveyard of empires', the metal enthusiast will properly be treated to almost an hour of classic metal music, no holds barred. Lick the Blade may not be the next best thing, but they have sincerely motivated mettle hearts, which is fundamental in this evermoving, evolving metal milieu.

The lux of Auburn Records' shining glory may not be hammering out the goodies of those halcyon days, but Bill Peters, like Brian Slagel, is a stand-up guy who serves the metal community with everything he has, and more. He is one of the most munificent and endearing men you will ever meet and rage with, while discussing thrash and the European scene. He has spent half of his life in the studio serving his bands; most likely, much to the dismay of his wife and kids.

All hail to Lick the Blade for a promising debut, and all the best to Auburn Records for 25 years of tried and true respect. I am privileged to befriend these souls who create ass-kickin' music, and balls out compositions... "Up the blades!"




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