Ah, 3 Inches of Blood. I’ve had a very dysfunctional relationship with them, filled with dizzying highs and crushing lows. I’ve alternated between enjoying them, questioning the reasons for their existence and dismissing them as a gimmick. Their Advance and Vanquish album was a happy surprise, loaded with loony, over-the-top, metal quasi-parody. Pairing recycled NWOBHM riffs with thrash and cartoonishly shrieking vocals, it worked way better than it should have (especially with those “unique” vox). Follow up Fire Up the Blades had its sharp moments, but was already suffering from diminishing returns. Here Waits Thy Doom felt even more rehashed, and it seemed they had written themselves into a corner stylistically. Now, they return with the Manowar-approved Long Live Heavy Metal, and I’m dragged back into this confusing milieu yet again. So, does Long Live Heavy Metal continue the heedless Spinal Tap silliness and genre overkill? Yes, it certainly does, with psychotic glee. Does it work? Surprisingly, it works very well this time out! There are a few duds and missteps, but overall, this is fun in the same way Advance and Vanquish was. They seriously stepped up their songwriting acumen to boot. While they’ll always be a bit of a novelty act, at least this time they made it off-the-rails, guitar-driven, metal-tastic fun for the whole family (except grandma, she hates this shit).
As always, their sound is all about the guitars. The riffs, harmonies, the solos, that’s 3 Inches of Blood‘s bread and butter. As soon as “Metal Woman” (I know, awful title) kicks in, you get hit with NWOBHM and thrash riffs aplenty. There’s a pleasantly old school 80′s metal vibe and things are nicely raw and rocked out. There are numerous winning guitar flourishes and solos to keep the listener engaged throughout. Of course, the vocals of Cam Pipes still sound like King Diamond if he gargled with battery acid and helium, but more on that later. On “My Sword Will Not Sleep,” they inject a healthy dose of Manowar epic-ism as they thrash along to tales of revenge, steel and chest hair. Cam mimics Warrel Dane’s crazy screech from his Sanctuary days, and once again, the guitars impress with riff and harmony alike. Other fun moments include the catchy ”Leather Lord,” which adds blackened influences and a great guitar solo at 1:50, the galloping pace of “Storming Juno,” and the blatant Maiden-isms on “Dark Messenger.”
They also take time to pay loving tribute to the late great Dio with the amusingly titled ”Look Out,” which is loaded with excellent harmonies and a very cool Rainbow-style organ duel with the guitars at 3:10. The set piece of Long Live Heavy Metal comes with the seven minutes plus of “Men of Fortune,” which rambles all over the place but keeps the quality high and allows the guitars to really show their stuff. It also features some clean singing, which comes as a huge relief after so much shrieking and screaming. There are also two well done instrumentals. Chief and the Blade” has a tough, country western feel, and “One for the Ditch” showcases some nifty acoustic guitars that get all folksy before transitioning into epic viking metal, replete with heroic chanting. This one especially is a winner.
With all the blood, there’s gotta be a few scabs. “Leave it on the Ice” is about hockey. That kills it right there, and try as I might, I can’t get into a metal song about hard checking and aggressive stick handling. “Die for Gold” and “4000 Torches” both end up rather generic and flat, though the latter has some flashes of Thin Lizzy.
And now we get to the big obstacle to appreciating 3 Inches of Blood. Cam Pipes is a one trick pony vocally, and that pony is dead. His ear-piercing, glass-shattering wail is oh so “metal” and fun the first few times you hear it, but it gets irritating over the course of multiple songs (a condition known as “Cam Fatigue”). Its best to take these guys in relatively small doses due to the disabling effect from prolonged exposure to the Camster’s…pipes. If he would switch it up with more clean singing (as on “Men of Fortune”), those screeches would be more tolerable, not to mention effective. Making up for the vocals, are the performances by guitarists Shane Clark and Justin Hagberg. They shred till they bleed all over this album and exceed all past performances. There are so many infectious harmonies and riffs, it’s hard to stop listening, even when C.F. inevitably sets in.
So, my roller coaster relationship with these guys continues. I enjoyed this far more than expected, and now I’m all conflicted again. If you like metal that defines the term “over-the-top,” then you should hear this. If piercing noises give you seizures, migraines or nosebleed, you should NOT hear this! Long live heavy metal indeed, you mercurial bastards!