It’s hard to imagine a band more intrinsically metal than Three Inches of blood. Whether it be the band’s gloriously metal name, Cam Pipes’ brilliantly OTT vocals, song titles such as ‘metal woman’ and ‘leather lord’ or the brilliant call-to-arms album title ‘Long Live Heavy Metal’, three inches of blood embody the living, fire-breathing spirit of heavy metal to the extent that to declare yourself opposed to their music is more-or-less akin to admitting to a dislike of metal itself.
‘Long Live Heavy metal’ is the band’s fifth album to date and it is arguably their strongest, most consistently exciting release yet, an album that pulses with energy, passion and vigour and which has a sense of the epic, sweeping grandeur that makes traditional heavy metal such a thrilling experience. The band kick off with the mighty ‘metal woman’, a song that opens in fine style with the harmonised guitars crystal clear before a pulsing bass line kicks in and 3” are off, grabbed by their own sense of momentum for a driving riff that’s pure old school. As Cam enters, be prepared to hide your crystal as he unleashes the sort of howl that Jack Black clearly had in mind when he wrote ‘master exploder’ and we’re off in a dizzying whirlwind of Technicolor riffs and well-worn, but never outdated heavy metal themes . It’s a brilliantly executed homage to the glory days of late seventies heavy metal, with the experience of the intervening years adding a touch of colour and production class and just a hint of modern-day extreme metal thrown in to give the whole thing a touch of spice. Next up is the effervescent ‘my sword will not sleep’ which sees the band harking back to the days of Saxon’s hugely underrated ‘Crusader’ album and Cam outdoing himself with one of his best vocal performances yet. Powerful, with some awe-inspiring solos, not to mention an ace performance from Ash Pearson who throws in a crushing outro, it still cannot compete with the red-blooded blast of ‘leather lord’ which is the sound of a million metal fans simultaneously climaxing over a Marshall amp in a bedroom decorated with skulls and crosses. A fast-paced, epic blast of pure metal fury it encapsulated everything that is brilliant about heavy metal and the harsh vocals (courtesy of Justin Hagberg) only add to the proceedings. Where to go from such an awesome song? Three inches of blood apparently know only one way and that is into the realms of the mythical, mystical instrumental – ‘Chief and the blade’ features not only some stunning acoustic guitar work, but also the mellifluous sound of the flute and an ambience that conjures to mind a sense of the vast, uninhabited expanses of America that many of us will only ever get to see on the television or in books. A remarkable, emotive track it beautifully offsets the raging intensity found elsewhere and segues into the pulsing ‘dark messenger’ which opens with the briefest of acoustic passages before things take a turn for the Priest and Cam is back, front and centre commanding attention and demanding we all kneel before the metal gods.
Kicking off with the sort of riff that gets under your skin and into your head, ‘look out’ is every bit as histrionic as you might expect from the title, whilst Cam’s assertion that “the spirit will not die” could well be the album’s unofficial subtitle. ‘4000 torches’ also cruises in on a riff that is brilliantly memorable and couched in the language of familiarity whilst still spun firmly form three inches own unique cloth. It’s music to make the heart pump and the adrenalin surge – the music of the gladiatorial arena, or blood-soaked mud of the battlefield and it’s both memorable and brilliantly played enough to join the ranks of the metal classics it is so clearly in thrall to as metal fans slowly gravitate towards its many pleasures. Heavier still is ‘leave it on the ice’, a barricade storming slice of pure metal joy before we’re into ‘die for gold (upon the boiling sea IV)’, a song that refuses to let up the pace but which has a brilliantly realised hook line that will have you coming back for more time and again.
Seeking inspiration in recent history, ‘storming Juno’ is a paean to the fallen of WW2 and the blood-drenched battle for Juno beach on D Day, with well written lyrics combined with some of the strongest, most fluid solos on the album. It is, however, ‘men of fortune’ that demands the attention in the latter stages of the album – a seven minute plus epic that combines the lyrical might of Iron Maiden with the pulse pounding metal of Judas Priest and the memorably melodic choruses of Saxon to grand effect indeed. As Cam’s swansong it is the perfect exit for the powerful singer, leaving the band to bring the curtain down with the instrumental beauty of ‘one for the ditch’ which neatly rounds the album out in grandiose style.
‘Long live heavy metal’ is the sort of album title that can so easily backfire if you don’t have the songs to match such a brash sentiment, but over five albums and twelve years of bloodshed (not to mention a rather fluid line up) three inches of blood have honed their craft to the point that they have delivered what is undoubtedly a solid-gold masterpiece of traditional heavy metal. Powerful, passionate and gloriously over-the-top, this is an album that embraces the history, the fire and the fury of heavy metal and recasts it to the band’s own demanding specifications. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better pure metal album this year – three inches of blood have just delivered a beast.