Album Review: 3 Inches of Blood – Long Live Heavy Metal

                                       3 Inches Of Blood – Long Live Heavy Metal Album Review

                                                                             By Matt Albers

In any music community, there are trends and scenes that fragment the larger group as a whole. Older or familiar sounds make way for new movements, be they unique and innovative or simply popular and “cool.” Metal is no different, as we continue to see subgenres spring up and bands try to outdo one another in the same general theme. When a band tries to resurrect sounds from metal’s past, it either fails or is a short-lived gimmick or novelty. It is difficult for a band to keep the classic elements of heavy metal alive, but not impossible. Just ask Vancouver, Canada’s 3 Inches Of Blood.

3 Inches Of Blood formed in humble beginnings in 1999 with original vocalist Jamie Hooper, known mostly for his intense, extended harsh screeches. Their first full-length album, 2002’s Battlecry Under A Winter Sun, featured the high-pitched wailing singing of Cam Pipes, similar to Judas Priest’s Rob Halford or Accept’s Udo Dirkschneider. 3 Inches Of Blood gained popularity over years of touring on festivals like Ozzfest and the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, as well as opening for big-name acts including Slipknot, Hatebreed, GWAR, Cradle Of Filth, and scoring their first big tour opening for The Darkness circa 2004 (speaking of short-lived novelty acts). Their music has been featured in video games including Tony Hawk’s Underground 2, Saints Row 2, and Brutal Legend. The band endured several lineup changes, including the loss of vocalist final founding member himself Jamie Hooper in 2008, after years of screaming threatened permanent damage to his throat.

One would think that a band of the style and constantly changing member lineups of 3 Inches Of Blood would be one of those aforementioned short-lived, gimmicky novelty acts. But their dedication to their theme and sound only caused their fan base to steadily grow over the past twelve years. Guitarists Shane Clark and Justin Hagberg have stuck with the band since 2004, and drummer Ash Pearson since late 2007. Their latest effort, Long Live Heavy Metal, is their fifth full-length album and sophomore release on Century Media, since leaving Roadrunner Records around 2008/2009. Their last album and Century Media debut, 2009’s Here Waits Thy Doom was an even more classic-sounding metal album, reminiscent more of bands like Deep Purple or Led Zepplin. Although still a fun album, it was nowhere near as exciting as their preceding album, their 2007 opus Fire Up The Blades, which featured their biggest, heaviest sound, fastest songs, and most varied structure and writing by utilizing elements of thrash and even black metal.

So how does their new record hold up? Well, with a band like 3 Inches Of Blood, you tend to know what to expect: classic, traditional heavy metal in the vein of its earliest forms, reminiscent of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal and power metal movements, complete with narrative lyrics, usually violent but always nerdy, including topics of sorcery, witchcraft, mythical creatures, the glory of battle, and the celebration of heavy metal itself. And this is exactly what you get with Long Live Heavy Metal. The album opens with a booming, ominous introduction to a song destined to be an anthem of female metal fans everywhere and those who love them, “Metal Woman.” From there, the album takes you on a journey of non-stop classic metal that showcases probably all of the best elements that fans have come to expect from 3 Inches Of Blood and then some.

After the departure of founding member and vocalist Jamie Hooper, Here Waits Thy Doom was clearly a regrouping of the band to almost start over from scratch, ushering in a new era for the band. Long Live Heavy Metal can be described as sounding very reminiscent of their 2004 breakthrough album Advance And Vanquish. Both albums are overall much heavier than Here Waits Thy Doom, but neither are as heavy nor as diverse as Fire Up The Blades. Some of the elements of Long Live Heavy Metal are much heavier than on their last album. The guitar riffs and shredding are faster and more captivating, as are the drumming, particularly on songs like “My Sword Will Not Sleep,” “4000 Torches,” and probably the best song on the album, “Leave It On The Ice” which, in typical Canadian fashion, is a song about hockey (the most metal sport of all time).

To make up for the loss of a harsh vocalist, guitarist Justin Hagberg took over covering most of those duties (both live as well as new recordings after Hooper’s departure) with assistance from lead vocalist Cam Pipes as well. With Here Waits Thy Doom, the harsh vocals were nearly non-existent for a 3 Inches Of Blood album. But with Long Live Heavy Metal, harsh vocals from both Hagberg and Pipes were much more toned and prevalent. The lyrical themes on this album are typical for 3 Inches Of Blood; therefore, Dungeons & Dragons fans rejoice and pretentious, overly angry metalheads who take their music way too seriously take heed. It tends to be the lyrics and high-pitched vocals that turn people away, even young fans who appreciate classic, traditional, founding metal bands like Iron Maiden, Motorhead and Saxon. Still, for those who like to escape into fantasy through over-the-top lyrics, then look no further. 3 Inches Of Blood fans will also be pleased to see a continuation of their three-part pirate saga from Advance And Vanquish continues with “Die For Gold (Upon The Boiling Sea IV),” and there’s even called “Look Out” which celebrates the memory of one of the most important figures in metal, the late Ronnie James Dio.

There are very few negatives with Long Live Heavy Metal, the most noticeable thing being that sometimes the songs tend to run together as many of them sound and are structured the same. Fortunately, there are some elements worked in throughout the album that give the listener time to breathe and appreciate a bit more diversity. There is a fine use of an organ played by both guitarists, and the seven and a half-minute epic “Men Of Fortune” breaks down to a soothing, melodic portion with lower-ranged clean singing. There are even two instrumental acoustic interlude tracks, one of which titled “One For The Ditch” closes the album on a slightly somber yet overall strong note, while the other, “Chief And The Blade” is inspired by folk music. This track features traditional percussion instruments, acoustic guitar and mandolin, and even a flute, all of which make this an undeniably beautiful break from the rest of the album’s intensity.

If there’s only one other arguably negative point that sticks out like a sore thumb on Long Live Heavy Metal, it’s that the song “Leather Lord,” while one of the most fun, fastest, and maybe overall best songs on the album, sounds EXACTLY like Judas Priest’s “Painkiller.” But this is hardly a reason to avoid the album as a whole, far from it. By now it is obvious that 3 Inches Of Blood are anything but a novelty act and are able to keep the traditions of classic heavy metal relevant and appreciative. The band is able to walk the tightrope and balance both fun and seriousness at the same time, while also being a part of the current metal scene without being pretentious, elitist traditionalists.

So well-regarded is 3 Inches Of Blood now, that the band was able to recruit former Strapping Young Lad and Fear Factory bassist Byron Stroud to be their current bassist after recording for Long Live Heavy Metal was completed (guitarists Shane Clark and Justin Hagberg wrote and recorded the bass parts for this album as well as Here Waits Thy Doom). Long Live Heavy Metal is also available in a special edition digipak that features two songs from the band’s 2011 7” release Anthems For The Victorious, as well as a cover of the song “Daytona” by the band Zeke. 3 Inches Of Blood fans will not be disappointed by Long Live Heavy Metal, and this album would also be a good starting place for any fan of traditional or power metal looking to introduce themselves to 3 Inches Of Blood…even if the title is very noncommittal.

Final Score: 4 out of 5 (A-/A)

Recommended If You Like: Judas Priest, Primal Fear, Iced Earth, Manowar, Iron Maiden

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