3 Inches of Blood

Advance and Vanquish

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Canadian sextet 3 Inches of Blood struck a deal with none other than Roadrunner Records -- one of the world's most successful heavy metal labels -- prior to recording their sophomore effort, Advance and Vanquish, in 2004, and if that doesn't bode well for their ongoing mission to recycle and re-energize the well-worn thrash and classic metal devices of old, well, then perhaps nothing will. Sparing no thought to subtlety (as usual), choice highlights like "Deadly Sinners," "Premonition of Pain," and the uncharacteristically flippant-of-title "Crazy Nights" show no fear for life or limb as they charge headlong into the fray, their tightly controlled thrashings and reliably over the top lyrics colliding with the intensity of Painkiller-era Judas Priest and the preposterous silliness of Manowar or Dio. Pausing only to wipe their bloody swords clean on the tunics of fallen enemies, the bandmembers also rework first album favorite "Destroy the Orcs" and bring back memories of prime era Accept with tracks like "The Phantom of the Crimson Cloak" and the downright awesome "Dominion of Deceit." And in a move that's sure to distinguish them from most "sword and sorcery"-themed heavy metal bands, 3IOB's songs rarely exceed three or four minutes in length, forcing fans of epic songwriting to content themselves with the three separate tunes -- opening, halving, and closing the LP -- comprising the "Upon the Boiling Sea" suite. What's more, no matter how large a bull's-eye is painted on their war machine's posterior by the arbiters of musical "taste," 3 Inches of Blood can always claim at least one groundbreaking heavy metal innovation in the shape of dual vocalists Cam Pipes and Jamie Hooper. Here, just as they had on the band's impressive debut, Pipes and Hooper engage in high-octane duets like a pair of suicidal Valkyries, the first's piercing melodic screams combining with the second's lacerated shrieks to propel devastating remnants like "Revenge Is a Vulture," "Swordmaster," and "Axes of Evil" right over the cliffs of reasonable restraint. In short, although Advance and Vanquish lacks that single, irresistible knockout punch capable of breaking the band to a wider audience, and employs much the same weaponry as its worthy predecessor, it does so with superior production standards, a new and improved rhythm section, and a welcome increase in the number of pyrotechnic guitar solos, resulting in a faster, sleeker, meaner 3 Inches of Blood.

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