It might not seem like the most radical thing in the world, but GOBLINS BLADE are a proper heavy metal band. If you've ever winced at power metal's occasional descent into overt cheeriness, or folk metal's wistful 'n' windswept shtick, then the perfect antidote has always been some red-blooded, muscular and defiantly old-school metal, spiritually enshrouded in denim and leather and hell-bent on grandeur. There is a strong progressive edge to this German quintet's sound, too: but this is the prog metal of early FATES WARNING, CRIMSON GLORY and PSYCHOTIC WALTZ, rather than anything more self-consciously elaborate. The core of "Of Angels And Snakes" is made of the purest steel, its creators' self-evident ingenuity simply making every song feel fully fleshed-out and thrumming with drama.
Opener "Snakes From Above" may have a title that will provoke thoughts of Samuel L. Jackson swearing at pythons at high altitude, but the music is no laughing matter. Frontman Florian Reimann has a definite BRUCE DICKINSON air in his tone and delivery (which is rarely a cause for complaint, let's face it), and his powerful bellow soars across high-velocity thrash riffs and epic, MANOWAR-tinged classicism with equal ferocity and flair. "Pay For Your Sins" is one of several instant anthems here: a distinctly MAIDEN-esque melody woven into thunderous, sledgehammer trad metal that is so heavy with Valhalla vibes it might as well come with its own self-assembly longboat. Similarly stunning is "Utopia", a snappy and brutish post-thrash chug-fest with a lethal chorus straight out of the early HELLOWEEN handbook.
Idle comparisons aside, it's the combination of these cherished elements and their seemingly naturalistic reshaping by these musicians that makes GOBLINS BLADE sound so fresh, several decades on from their source material. "When The Night Follows The Day" is a brilliantly overblown stride into grandiloquent doom territory, the glacial pace and heroic tone underscored by a particularly startling Reimann performance and a wickedly overwrought lead break. Meanwhile, timely closer "Call For Unity" is another guaranteed crowd-pleaser, with shades of STEEL PROPHET and VICIOUS RUMORS giving middle-aged metalheads (like me) and possibly a large number of other discerning music listeners even more reasons to be cheerful.
Both a celebration of heavy metal in its purest form and an elegant plundering of its untapped potential, "Of Angels And Snakes" will proudly and unapologetically remind you of lots of other really great heavy metal bands from various points in the genre's history. But GOBLINS BLADE have also established a fierce identity of their own, and they have the distinctive and dynamic songs to match. A superior debut, for true believers only.