If you thought the once proud battle flag of NWoBHM was laying somewhere gathering dust and regret, the unheralded young guns in Kaine are certainly trying to patch it up and give it a fresh new look. Their sophomore opus The Waystone is loaded with fanboy worship of everything Iron Maiden, Saxon and Grim Reaper stood for in the 80s and features tons of Maiden-esque gallops and vintage metal riffs (mostly from the you-know-who school). This indisputably solid foundation is then regrettably cluttered up with ham-handed, bloated and disjointed attempts at prog-rock and other general strangeness. While the band sometimes displays a keen ear for hook-heavy metal, they often let the songs go on way too long, ramble off in too many directions or just drift aimlessly. While I hate to be one to piss on attempts at being unique, this album is a testament to trying too hard to put a new spin on really old metal and what you get is a muddle of ideas that don’t gel together and play nicely. It’s actually rather maddening, if I’m being completely honest.
Ah, if only the whole album was as simple as the stellar opener “Iron Lady.” This is such a simple, enjoyable throwback to the early 80s, full of hooks, denim and leather. It’s like Di’Anno era Maiden run through a Thin Lizzy smoothie machine and it’s overflowing with tasty riff patterns and a simple, satisfying chorus. It gets you primed for more of the same, but the band pulls the rug out and delivers something more akin to Bush-era Anthrax mixed with Rage Against the Machine (though Maiden riffs worm their way in through every crack in the façade). It’s edgy, pissed off and odd. Things get stranger still on the very laidback “Solidarity,” which wants to be an epic Maiden song, a ballad and doom rock all at once. The fact it works at all is stunning, the fact it’s enjoyable is stupefying. It won’t be making my year end list of great metal moments, but it’s a sort of easy listening metal that keeps you locked in. They lurch back into Maiden form for “Resistance,” which is effective and punchy metal with some slick guitar work bearing a vague Seventh Son vibe. Confused yet?
Things head south on the way overlong “This Soul Exchange,” which drifts like an abandoned clam boat between metal and new age-y prog rock as the band struggles with a pretty basic power ballad motif. I can’t quite get what they were going for here, but I know they didn’t achieve it. On the way to wrecking in a heap, it manages to rip off a few choice moments from Pantera‘s “Cemetery Gates,” so its got that going for it at least. The peak of weirdness comes with the eleven minute title track which is something like slightly jazzy prog mixed with intermittent attempts of NWoBHM and occasional flashes of more edgy, Metallica-like thrash. As much as I want to buy into what they are doing, it’s executed too crudely to resonate in a meaningful way.
The only thing holding this odd stew together is the guitar work and for that, Rage Sadler and Anthony Murch deserve some props. They steal a whole lotta stuff from Maiden, but they certainly expand upon their inspiration at every opportunity. While this ultimately undoes the album, much of their playing is interesting and enjoyable. The vocals from either Dan Mailer or Sadler (I don’t know which) are pretty basic, walking between shouting and rough singing. This adds little to the music and a more dynamic and powerful singer might have made a sizeable difference. Mailer’s bass work is solid though he borrows way too much from Steve Harris (apparently including his inability to edit songs).
This is certainly a mess of an album, but it’s a mess with character all its own. Despite the sometimes painfully meandering numbers, they have the germ of a good idea here and their playing is often engaging. If they learn to trim their compositions into more digestible portions and lay off the rambling, they could get someplace besides the vintage metal shirt store. Three words of advice: edit, chop, trim!