A primordial heroism returns.
Nostalgia is a powerful ally in today’s metal scene, sharing an almost equal footing with originality, and the best bands to occupy the present craze with early heavy metal revivalism are not averse to including some of the second concept in paying tribute to the past. Such is the road that is being traveled by Indiana-based traditional heavy and doom metal purveyors Wolftooth as they remember the days when Cirith Ungol was promoting the fantasy literature of Michael Moorcock while carrying on the spirit of Black Sabbath’s golden era in their own unique way, and when the likes of Manowar and Manilla Road were dabbling in tales of sword and sorcery closer to the days of Robert E. Howard and Edmund Rice Burroghs while constructing vivid and long-winded metallic epics. Having established themselves as heavy-hitters in the old school heavy metal and doom revival with two exemplary LPs that blend the aforementioned influences with a subtle modern stoner vibe, it was entirely unsurprising to see a big name like Napalm Records take interest in the group.
2021 has brought forth many grand efforts to the fore, and this outfit’s 3rd full length album and label debut “Blood & Iron” is no exception. Drawing heavily upon the same ubiquitous influence of Black Sabbath that has touched every band dabbling in traditional doom metal, they have nevertheless found a much more unique take on the style by complementing it with some present day influences via the likes of Pallbearer and Grand Magus. In contrast to a wholly orthodox retread of Bill Ward’s fill happy, jazzy drumming style, kit man Johnny Harrod keeps things a little tighter and makes fairly regular use of double kick patterns that were far rarer back in the 1970s. Similarly, bassist Terry McDaniel focuses a bit more on serving the song with a precise performance that bolsters the rhythmic drive of the songs, though he is not wholly averse to going off on his own occasionally. But the greatest deviation is the guitar work, which sees Jeff Cole and Chris Sullivan frequently emulating Tony Iommi’s deep, sludgy riffing style, but further dresses it up with some dueling lead work out of the Thin Lizzy school and a slightly more developed level of bluesy shredding that’s closer to an early 80s NWOBHM vibe.
The combination of these older influences with a more kinetic, almost early USPM drive and a vocal performance that listens like a less nasally and shrill rendition of classic 70s Ozzy Osbourne is one that stands out pretty far from the pack. The drawn out epic sloughs that are “Ahad” and the title anthem “Blood & Fire” could very easily pass for a more sludgy interpretation of the seminal epic exploits of Manilla Road. B contrast, the swift-paced punch of “The Voyage” is among this album’s closest attempts at a banger, and features a really active array of dueling lead guitar work and speed riffing that often channels early 80s Iron Maiden. The shuffling bluesy riff machine “A King’s Land” is probably the closest thing to an overt nod to Sabbath, sounding like a faster version of the proto-thrashing moments of Sabotage, while the speed metal-infused beast “Broken Sword” wanders almost completely off the doom map at times and listens more like the mad anthems Ross The Boss was taking to Manowar. Basically every song on here is an energized mix of early NWOBHM-inspired heavy metal thunder and a slightly mellower and danker sonic quality.
Arguably the chief benefit that revival acts of any stripe offer is a chance to explore roads not taken by a style’s forerunners and early pioneers. In this album’s particular case, the scenario would run somewhat along the lines of what Cirith Ungol’s “Frost And Fire” would sound like with a more comprehensive songwriting approach and a vocalist who is a tad more accessible to those who don’t care for the eccentricities of most USPM singers, or perhaps what Manowar’s “Into Glory Ride” might have been if the guitars were muddier and Eric Adams stuck to his middle range. But ultimately this is an album that can stand on its own musical merits in a 2020s context, and also one that stands apart from the sea of bands imitating Sabbath’s “Master Of Reality” or “Vol. 4” albums as a stylistic niche. It splits the difference between the dank world of doom and the faster-paced one of the early 80s heavy metal sound almost equally down the middle and both camps will likely have a correspondingly favorable view of it. If nothing else, it showcases what proto-metal would have sounded like had it traveled into the future and sampled what it’s successors would end up creating.
Released By: Napalm Records
Release Date: December 3rd, 2021
Genre: Doom / Stoner Metal
- Chris Sullivan / Vocals, Guitars
- Terry McDaniel / Bass
- Jeff Cole / Guitars
- Johnny Harrod / Vocals, Drums
“Blood & Iron” track-listing:
- Blood & Iron
- A King’s Land
- Broken Sword
- The Voyage
- Winter White
- Garden of Hesperides
- The Mare
Order “Blood & Iron” here.
“Blood & Iron” is available in the following formats:
- CD Digipack
- 1LP Gatefold Black
- 1LP Gatefold Gold Die Hard Edition w/ album cover slipmat and logo patch (Napalm Mailorder only – limited to 100)
- 1LP Gatefold Marbled Gold & Black (Napalm Mailorder only – limited to 200)
- CD Digipack & Shirt Bundle (Napalm EU/RoW Mailorder only)
Establishing themselves as one of the new major players in the American doom revival and further exploring the epic territory of the early 80s heavy metal period, Indiana native quartet Wolftooth scores a new classic on their third LP and Napalm Records debut.