Arriving packaged in some of the most devilishly unpleasant artwork of recent years, the content of Butcher’s offering could go either way, but even a cursory listen will reveal a band weaned on the breast milk of metal and first track proper, ‘the dark’ transpires to be a heady brew of early Metaillica, Megadeth and Iron Maiden supercharged by Stoneage’s Mustaine-esque snarl, Lil Tang’s rather excellent backing vocals and Joel Myers’ uniformly excellent guitar work.
Indeed, once you get past the fact that Butcher have both the moniker and album art of a southern European death metal band, the quality of what awaits you inside is quite undeniable and the riffs, enlivened by huge whammy-bar dive bombs and bursts of frenetic soloing, are pure, classic heavy metal played with a life-affirming passion and precision. The next tracks are a fairly pointless, although admittedly humorous, trawl through fictional radio stations before ‘king of the hill (billed as track 3 but arriving on track 9) blasts out of the speakers with harmonised guitar lines, explosive drum fills and huge, massed vocals on the chorus which may be simplistic with its repeated refrain of “king of the hill!” but try telling that to the fans screaming it out of the mosh pit and see how far you get. Indeed, it is the sheer ludicrous fun factor here (cranked up to an appropriate 11) that makes Butcher so damned enjoyable – it sure ain’t clever music, but when you’ve had a beer and all you want to do is rock out this is surely the place you want to go to. Following some more channel skipping, ‘battleaxe’ appears to batter down any remaining defences you may have with its ludicrously over-egged introduction and Gary Sheehan’s crazy-man drumming but the truth is if you have any place in your heart for Judas Priest and their bank-robbing antics, Iron Maiden or Saxon then this is an album that is going to burn a hole in your stereo faster than you can say “where are my leather trousers?” and deservedly so particularly when a glance at the band’s biography reads rather more like a catalogue of disasters than a traditional band history with strokes, deaths and accidents all taking their toll on a group of people who live only to further the cause of passionate, riff-heavy,heavy metal.
Speaking of riff-heavy heavy metal a great starting point for the uninitiated is the rolling tom assault of ‘shockwave’ which opens amidst some brutal riffs before developing a healthy Iron Maiden gallop recalling that band in their glorious eighties heyday jamming with members of Black Sabbath and Judas Priest – a mouth-watering proposition indeed while the solo on the bridge is equally impressive. Next track ‘silence’ is not, in fact, silent but a gentle ballad complete with a sweet vocal from Lil Tang and acoustic guitar. After all the blood and thunder it’s actually quite unexpected and very well executed. However, while ‘Silence’ offers a nice change of pace, it is the blood ‘n’ guts blast of pure metal on ‘Wreck ‘n’ ball’ that gets the adrenalin pumping again with Stoneage providing a superbly gritty vocal. ‘Halloween’ follows with Lil Tang taking the lead and proving, once again, that she’s more than capable of holding her own against the gravel throated bassist while the music progresses at a more stately pace with an almost gothic grandeur underpinning the lyrical concept on offer. ‘Gates of hell’ is another belter, a highlight of the record in fact, with an evil vocal line and some of the best riffs of the record and it’s hard not to feel grateful that Butcher fought against all of their terrible personal tragedies to actually create this awesome blast of old-school metal. ‘Your own enemy’ maintains the pace with some suitably crunchy riffs and a vocal dual between Stoneage and Lil Tang proving to be another highlight even if the vocal at around 3 minutes bizarrely references Adam Ant!! ‘Days of Troy’ is a slow, menacing number filled with jarring vocals and spookily atmospheric sound effects as well as a cheeky reference to ‘And justice to all’-era Metallica in the crunching opening riff. The title track offers a horror-themed jaunt through Iron Maiden territory complete with wild, squealing guitar and satanic vocals before ‘Sunrise’ takes you on a tour of the pastoral side of metal via Maiden’s more progressive excursions before the oddly unsettling epilogue closes the album.
In ‘Welcome to the night’ Butcher have crafted an odd and ultimately excellent album. It starts well, but then it takes a while to really kick in thanks to the vaguely progressive idea of using radio-station segues that are initially interesting but, perhaps, delay the next savage blast from beyond a little too much. However, the later tracks on the album are utterly worth the wait and once you get used to the awkward pacing of the album you find some absolute heavy metal gems that any band would be proud of producing. Two things are very clear; firstly, that the members of Butcher absolutely love what they do, a passion that shines through every track; and secondly, Butcher may have spent years waiting to get this recording done, but those years were worth it. If there is any justice in this world at all, 2011 will be Butcher’s year as they seek to consolidate this fine release. In the meantime we can only buy this excellent record and hope that they make it to the UK to blast out their mighty riffs in person. All hail Butcher.