Canada is in the midst of a speed metal renaissance at the moment, with bands like Skull Fist and Riot City blazing burning pathways back to the 80s. Now you can add Metalian to the backward focused mob rush. Their third opus Vortex is a shameless throwback dose of speed mixed with traditional and NWoBHM ideas, designed and executed to sound totally natural in 1984. That means tossing Agent Steel, Razor and Judas Priest in a burlap sack and shaking furiously to see what happens. The byproduct is a high energy time capsule infused with catchy riffs and harmonies and vocals straight from Torsion University. This kind of kinetic, easy-breezy speed is tailor-made for summer fun, and I admit this is an easy sale for old fusbudgets like me who experienced their teen glory years during the first wave of speed. Still, if the goods are delivered, who am I to refuse shipment?
Opening with a slightly punky, highly rocking instrumental “Prologue,” Metalian sets expectations and the mood for what’s to come as riffs do all the talking and make a persuasive argument for you to stay tuned. It bleeds energy and attitude, and feels authentically 80s. The first proper track, “The Sirens Wail” borrows pages from both Enforcer and Cauldron for an upbeat attack, fast, but not thrashy, with urgent riffing providing the base for frontman Ian’s commanding mid-range and Halford-esque screams. It reeks old timey metal and it’s appropriately catchy and infectious. NWoBHM harmonies whirl by, punctuated by over-the-top soloing and earhole drilling screeching, and it’s all a ton of fun. Cuts like “Full Throttle” and “Vortex” give the listener exactly what is expected from this style. You’ll hear traces of Judas Priest alongside Agent Steel and Exciter as things blast along with confidence and aggression, and tasty melodic hooks are always given to those who deserve them.
This is a short album at 30 minutes, and all eight songs maintain the forward momentum. The band even throws in some curveballs, like the out of left field foray into old Whitesnake moody, bluesy rock in the middle of the otherwise barn burning “Liquid Fire,” and The Ramones meets Thin Lizzy weirdness of closer “No Home.” No song feels like filler and all have engaging, memorable moments. The star for me is “Broke Down,” which takes a super simple but memorable riff and wrings every bit of use from it during a fist pumping little gem of a rocker where Ian’s vocals sound enough like a young Paul Stanley to make you wonder what would have happened if KISS were meaner, heavier and not total sellouts1.
This is a guitars first, guitars second kind of platter and Ian and battery-mate Simon bring a winning collection of riffs and harmonies to the party. Maiden gallops and Priest guitar duels never went out of fashion in their world, and though things are generally kept speedy, traditional metal lives large in their writing. Ian’s vocals walk the line between just right and wow, too much, dude. His high-register screeches are mostly well placed and rarely overused, and he has a knack for knowing when to dial things up and when to hold back. This is a talented collective playing the kind of music they love and it shows. Downsides? This is yet another throwback to the 80s in a time when that’s all the rage, and Metalian don’t bring any extra dimension to their pursuit of the past. They’re essentially a less manic Riot City, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but the overall level of writing is stuck at good rather than very good, so they feel like a slightly less essential spin.
If you’ve living for the 80s sound, Metalian is singing your fight song. Those who ate up Riot City‘s recent release will feel right at home here, and the quality level is pleasant and satisfying. If you’re looking for something new or unusual, you won’t find those things here. This is dad metal for dads or those who think like dads, and I salute it as such. Dad metal 4 EVA!