3 Inches of Blood

Battlecry Under a Winter Sun

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Canada's Three Inches of Blood throw their lot into the "shameless heavy metal retread" sweepstakes with the suitably titled Battlecry Under a Winter Sun and a simple motto: "Let metal be your master!" With song titles like "Ride Darkhorse, Ride," "Destroy the Orcs," and "Heir to the Chaos Throne," there's no disguising the group's humongous debt to Ronnie James Dio's school of sword and sorcery lyrics. And with their piles and piles of galloping, staccato riffs, these and album highlights such as "Headwaters of the River Blood," "Curse of the Lighthouse Keeper," and the absolutely hysterical "Balls of Ice" also drink liberally from the fountain of Iron Maiden -- even if they avoid the metal legends' epic approach to songwriting in order to wrap up in two or three minutes. This, as it turns out, works to Three Inches of Blood's advantage, as the absence of excess clutter allows for a fresh feeling of renewal throughout. Conversely, the band's heartfelt dedication to this often maligned and ridiculed genre might rub some listeners as being facetious, requiring a very open mind to stomach the likes of "Journey to the Promisedland" -- a dramatic interlude composed of acoustic guitar and chanted "ooh"s and "aah"s. Speaking of vocals, if there's anything truly unique about Three Inches of Blood, it's their use of not one, but two vocalists -- one singing piercing semioperatic melodies à la Rob Halford, the other shrieking like a death metal demon. Duetting on virtually every track, they do become a little hard to distinguish at times, but the overall effect is quite a bonus in the end. Purely from a metal purist's respective, two key items still missing if the band's commitment is to be complete: long hair and more guitar solos. Indeed, the latter prove surprisingly scarce throughout the album. Finally, one can't help but wonder if Three Inches of Blood are aware of how much they sound like Canadian proto-thrashers Exciter, albeit with far better songs. Regardless, this is a bold and fearless update of a long forgotten era, and will leave fans of classic heavy metal screaming for more.

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