2018 In Case You Missed It: Gates of Hell Records edition
Cruz del Sur Music (and sublabel Gates of Hell Records) is a stalwart defender of true heavy metal in these morbid times. Here are 3 short-form releases you need to hear from 2018. Always happy to promote their artists, they usually do a good job of putting out a mixture of full lengths, EPs, and splits in any given year and this year is no exception. Unfortunately, people tend to skip EPs (especially 7”s!) and splits from bands they don’t know, so I want to shed some light on some of the better ones so far this year. This is the first installment of an upcoming series of articles to talk about some of the notable EPs and demos from 2018. I wrote a similar article on the topic last year, but this time I want to go about it in a more focused way.
Chevalier / Legionnaire – Chevalier / Legionnaire
Pure, ancient speed metal is an unappreciated art these days. Most bands aren’t doing it at all, and the ones that are often lean towards thrash or towards the sound that bands like Enforcer made so popular. Chevalier and Legionnaire buck that trend and together both Finnish groups pay homage to the ‘80s without ever sounding too nostalgic to remember how to write a riff. The approach of each band is a bit different, with Chevalier tending more towards gorgeous leadwork and Legionnaire towards barbarian rhythms, but both bands use a bit of both and clearly draw a lot from a similar pool of influences. Both bands put out some of my favorite records of 2017, so I was ecstatic that they decided to work together on this split, and they didn’t let down.
Pulver – Pulver
Do you like Lemmy, hard rockin’, and gorgeous Karmazid artwork? Who am I kidding, of course you do. If you wish that the raw spirit of the ‘70s working man had never left his favorite bar to go do other stuff, this is the band to keep an eye on, because these Germans clearly agree with you and do an excellent job at putting forward a glorious offering to that style. Simple leadwork complements the rough and passionate vocals perfectly, and the songwriting is as catchy as it is memorable. Major bonus points to them for writing a fun instrumental to lead off the B-side of the 7”, too, since not many bands are still doing that that kind of thing. It’s a bit rare to hear modern stuff that’s this hard rocking that’s still successful at accomplishing what Pulver has, so treat yourself and pick up their eponymous debut.
Vultures Vengeance – Lyrids: Warning from the Reign of the Untold
Epic metal is worshipped along the Mediterranean, and it has developed over the years a few sounds that are very much quickly identifiable as belonging to those countries. Vultures Vengeance takes the epic a bit back in time to sound significantly older than most Italian bands playing in the style, however, sounding almost like a merger of Manilla Road and Cirith Ungol (particularly noticeable in the charming vocals of frontman Tony Steele!) alongside some other old influences instead. Even more commendable than his vocals is the standout lead guitar work and the impressive galloped rhythms, with the overall effect being that of impeccable epic metal mastery. Though I wish that the album was coming sooner, this does a great job of bridging the gap between it and 2016’s fantastic Where the Time Dwelt In.