The third installment of our quick guide to contemporary traditional heavy metal and this time we’ve got a couple of lesser known bands from Hell’s Headbangers, the same mystical label that puts out such established underground extreme metal acts as Black Witchery, Beherit, Cianide, and Deceased. This is one underrated label and I’ve been exploring some of their lesser known acts in my spare time, and by spare time I mean instead of sleeping, which I’m told is the first casualty of greatness; I’m expecting a golden statue of me to be erected any day now. From the HH armory we have Speedwolf and Armour, in addition to North American bands Widow (pictured above) and Split Heaven. This post has been simmering for a little while but watching the new RAM video earlier this week got the engine revving so it’s time once again to not only take up the banner of heavy metal but to hang it high and let it fly.
Widow (USA) – This band has some power metal tendencies but hovers over NWOBHM territory often enough for my taste. The songs are infectious and the album cover is metal as balls. The guitar harmonies dominate most of their material and, though the production is hampered by an annoyingly high drum sounds, North Carolina’s Widow show a ton of promise. It’s really an odd mix of NWOBHM guitar acrobatics, power metal hooks, glam sounding verses and bits and random growls that give the whole affair a mischievous vibe. Perhaps Lizzy Borden would be a good comparison. Above all else, how can you go wrong with a busty nun looking like Harley Quinn drenched in blood for album cover? You can’t.
Speedwolf (USA) – Denver natives Speedwolf take the biker speed appeal of Motorhead and give it the cult treatment while retaining crisper, more metallic riffing than Lemmy & gang. The over feel still has a heavy punk influence making for that rougher NWOBHM feel. How can you go wrong with a music video about a guy who’s like a cooler version of Teen Wolf but loves the Broncos? Love this band.
Split Heaven (Mexico) – In a movement dominated by Northern peoples, it’s awesome to see some riveting THM from South of the border. This band is something like Rush and Diamond Head diced up with Kill ‘Em All. That is to say, it’s all about NWOBHM hooks and guitar harmonies combined with the thrashy halftime change-ups of very early Metallica. In fact, this would appeal heavily to fans of Skull Fist since vocalist Eligio Valenzuela is a vibrato wailer, sounding something like Getti Lee or Klaus Meine from the Scorpions. Everything above should sound awesome to you if you’re still reading this post and I guarantee you’ll find yourself humming this tune. And, no, that’s not a typo; the title of the song is actually “The Devil Isn’t Fool”. Omitting articles is about as metal as you can get grammatically (see “Touch Like Angel of Death” from Children of Bodom or “If False No Entry” a la Sarcofago).
Armour (Finland) – This is more for fans of WASP and Judas Priest and is the pet project of Vince “Werewolf” Venom, the same peachy dude responsible for Finnish black metal noisemakers Satanic Warmaster (He is also a previous member of Horna \m/). It seems that even the grimmest most frostbittenest necrodaemons need some good ol’ fashioned beer drinking fun once in a while. YouTube makes a mockery of sound quality in this case so I advise picking this album up. Well worth it. Timeless yet original song and lots of lyrical prose about hooch and debauchery.