Split Heaven - Street law 3.5/5
1. Time warrior
2. The devil isn’t fool
3. Night of the jaguar
4. Street law
5. Servants of the night
7. Road to nowhere
8. Red light district
10. The obscure
Mexico is better known for its extreme metal scene than for its love of traditional metal. However, Split Heaven are out to change all of that. The quintet rose to some prominence as a flagship act on the fine Mexican label, Blower Records, with their 2008 CD ‘Psycho samurai’. As the next phase in their quest for world domination, Split Heaven signed with Germany’s highly-respected Pure Steel Records for their new CD, ‘Street law’. In recent years, Pure Steel has become synonymous with high quality old-school heavy metal, to the point where anything bearing the Pure Steel imprint has become a virtually mandatory purchase, even as a blind buy. So it was definitely a step up for Split Heaven to jump to this higher-profile label, albeit still within the context of our very insular worldwide underground heavy metal brotherhood rather than anything approaching the mainstream market, for metal or otherwise.
I’ll confess that the initial visual presentation is not particularly flattering, as the cover art features a relatively crude drawing of a scantily clad blonde bombshell inflicting violence on a trio of nondescript street thugs. The concept isn’t totally out of left field; after all, the title track of ‘Street law’ is about a female vigilante who’s somewhere between Charles Bronson in the Death Wish movies and Judge Dredd. But the execution is somewhat amateurish. That’s a shame, because the contents of this CD itself are anything but amateurish. What Split Heaven have given us on ‘Street law’ is 37 minutes of peppy classic metal with enough speed and an abundance of cool riffs that are reminiscent of faster NWOBHM, with occasional nods to Black Sabbath (that “Nightfall” riff sounds a hell of a lot like “Sabbra cadabra” doesn’t it?), Iron Maiden (“Road to nowhere”) and Agent Steel (“The obscure”). The memorability factor is high, and you’ll find yourself singing along to tunes like “Servants of the night” in no time. Funny thing is there’s a bit of a misheard lyric on that one, as I kept belting out the hookline as “Rats in the subway” when he’s actually singing “Was in the same way”. Oh well, I like my version better.
There’s really no need to belabor the point. Those who enjoy today’s cadre of young bands going after the NWOBHM-on-amphetamines angle (you know, the Enforcers and White Wizzards and Strikers and Skull Fists of the world) should have no trouble digging ‘Street law’. The songs, the performances and the production all fit comfortably in that niche, while unquestionably delivering the goods. If there’s a chink in Split Heaven’s armor, it lies in the somewhat one-dimensional screechy vocals of Eli Valenzuela, which will undoubtedly grate on some listeners, and the sometimes juvenile lyrics (“The devil isn’t fool” and especially “Red light district” are prime examples) make me wish the booklet omitted a lyric sheet altogether so I wouldn’t know what they are saying. Also, maybe it’s my imagination, but it sure strikes me that Split Heaven have laid off the gas pedal a bit on ‘Street law’ as compared to their previous efforts, which may be of some disappointment to those who crave speed glorious speed. An infusion of higher velocities on a few more cuts would have been most welcome.
But these are minor quibbles. ‘Street law’ is an impressive piece of work by a band that is poised and ready to make the leap to the next level. Split Heaven may not have written their masterpiece yet, but ‘Street law’ should go a long way toward placing them on the international map. Viva Mexico!
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