Saturday, December 28, 2013

Blitzkrieg-Back From Hell

Metal Nation Records

In preparation for this review of "Back From Hell" I decided to dig through my old notes on New Wave Of British Heavy Metal legends Blitzkrieg. After looking back over our archives I realized that the last time Blitzkrieg was covered here was back in 2011! Both Metal Mark and I did a write-up on this British metal band and what's interesting is that even that far back there were rumblings of a new Blitzkrieg studio-album! So it's been six years that fans have had to wait. That's six (l-o-n-g) years since Blitzkrieg's last recording (the so-so "Theatre of the Damned") and, in typical fashion for this band that was formed in Leicester way back in 1980( for a more thorough history on the band be sure to check out our N.W.O.B.H.M. Wednesday feature on Blitzkrieg at the link below)!), more line-up changes have taken place between studio-albums. Joining the always-dependable Brian Ross (lead vocals and keyboards) on "Back From Hell", which is (full-length) album number eight for the band if my counting is correct, we have Brian's son Alan (ex-Earthrod, ex-Cardinal Synne) on guitar along with guitarist Ken Johnson, bassist Bill Baxter and drummer Mick Kerrigan. Other then Johnson (who at least played live for the band in the past if nothing else) this looks to be a whole new cast of characters. Now, prior to downloading this album for myself off of iTunes (I have the expanded CD edition heading my way from Japan as we speak, but who knows when that will get here!) I did read a copy of reviews of Blitzkrieg's latest and I know that at least one review mentioned how Satan (Brian's other N.W.O.B.H.M. band which released the excellent "Life Sentence" earlier this year-link to review also available below this article) had better musicians backing up Brian then Blitzkrieg did. No arguments there. Especially as the guys in Satan (if memory serves me correct) were all season veterans. Here we do seem to have a younger bunch of metalheads backing up Brian Ross. But, while they might not be as technically sufficient as the key players in Satan, in regards to Blitzkrieg I'd offer the counter-point that less is more. Since Blitzkrieg always seemed to be more of a blue collar metal act anyway I think in this instance the other key personnel do just fine. Besides, this album comes off as being more of an 80's metal album/N.W.O.B.H.M. release then Satan's latest so they both have a lot offer fans. Alright, now that I've addressed that issue let's take a peak at the actual music inside of "Back From Hell". The album starts off with a spoken-word intro in which we find Jake the Ripper returning to modern-day London. Having (presumably) escaped from hell he converses with a "charming" prostitute while lamenting how everything has changed so dramatically. Soon enough he shows his "true" face and the album takes off running with the title-track, "Back From Hell". Having always been fascinated by the story of Jake the Ripper I actual like the theme of Blitzkrieg's latest offering and, pound for pound and note for note, the metal on display here does seem to live up to the album's creepy send-off! After setting the stage with the near speed-metal assault of "Back From Hell" we're "treated" to a modern-take of the band's early classic "Buried Alive". While such a number could be deemed totally unnecessary it does at least show off the strength of modern-day Brian Ross. Having listened to both cuts back to back (as I was curious after hearing the new remake) it doesn't stack-up to the original number, but then again how could anyone reasonably expect it to? We're talking about one of N.W.O.B.H.M.'s better singles here, but for what it is (a modern-day interpretation and all) it's not all that bad. It's not the only choice of covers on "Back From Hell" as the band does a decent enough job on a re-worked "Seek and Destroy" (dubbed "S&D (Seek and Destroy)" on "Back From Hell"). As Metallica covered Blitzkrieg at the very start of their career it seems fitting enough that Brian Ross and company repay the favor. It's not  a choice cover by any stretch of the imagination, but it does reaffirm my belief that Brian Ross should have been called in to front Metallica. I know they were trying for John Bush and (maybe?) Glenn Danzig, but had Metallica somehow convinced Brian Ross to come sing for them can you even begin to imagine how cool that would have been? Anyway, speaking of other artists and what not on "Call for the Priest" the band name-checks all things Judas Priest. With it's lyrics (seemingly at least as I don't have them in front of me to verify) made up entirely of Judas Priest song and album titles it's an interesting tribute of sorts. Sure it came as a bit of a surprise, but both are supreme British metal acts so one can see (or in this case hear!) the connection between both acts easy enough! Elsewhere we have numbers like the HEAVY and yet MELODIC "Complicated Issue" which, besides being different just in the fact that it ends up dealing with the issue of substance abuse, features excellent female vocals and well-placed keyboard passes! Yes, Brian Ross duets with a female vocalist and plays some snazzy keyboard parts the result is (surprisingly enough) pure heavy metal excellence! Who knew such a set-up could work so well? Meanwhile the number "V" is inspired by Alan Moore's graphic novel "V for Vendetta" although for my money it's hard to listen to it and not think of the 2006 film "V for Vendetta" instead! It's another surprisingly effective metal number as is speed-tinged "Sleepy Hollow" and (original version) album closer', "We Have Assumed Control". Thanks to the Metal Archives I now know that "Return to the Village" is lyrically inspired by the British TV series "The Prisoner". That does not however make up for it's ho-hum assembly and bland delivery. Still it's probably the only cut here I didn't really go for as "Sahara" is a solid slab of (slow build-up, but huge pay-off!) heavy metal while "One Last Time" sees Blitzkrieg pull of a power ballad in grand fashion! As shocking as it is to hear Brian Ross sing with a (talented) female vocalist on "Complicated Issue" it's just as shocking to see the band tackle a power ballad and make it stand out! Other then the instrumental "4 U" that's it for the standard version of this disc. When I do (hopefully soon?) get the extended version of "Back From Hell" I'll do an edit and comment on the bonus material. But for now all of that is what you get out of "Back From Hell" and this is one release that gives as good as it gets! Brian Ross still sings with the fire of a younger man and Blitzkrieg does their best to remind folks that they are every bit as important to the the N.W.O.B.H.M.movement and heavy metal history as bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. With their new album, "Back From Hell", Blitzkrieg have given fans of old plenty to rejoice about while still releasing one album that should appeal to today's younger generation of metal fanatics. It's definitively not a strictly N.W.O.B.H.M release as the band's celebrated return sees them trying out everything from 80's metal to near modern speed/power metal, but for those of whose of us who are old enough to know the real score it's as good as it gets! Welcome back Blitzkrieg. I hope you realize just how much you've been missed...

N.W.O.B.H.M. Wednesday feature on Blitzkrieg:

Review of Satan's "Life Sentence":

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