3 Inches of Blood, "Fire Up The Blades"
Having more than proved themselves with their last album, Advance and Vanquish, I was initially sad and shocked to hear that the only returning members of 3 Inches of Blood were vocalists, Pipes and Hooper. You see, it’s been very, very hard for me to take power metal at all seriously, and until these guys delivered the goods with their own Judas-Priest-by-way-of-Cradle-of-Filth style, I wouldn’t be caught within 20-miles of anything resembling the genre. With Advance and Vanquish, I honestly believe 3” managed to legitimize an otherwise fruity subclass of metal. These guys did what no other band has ever been able to do: they made sung vocals atop galloping, melodic riffs, and fantasy themes actually cool and (gasp!) heavy. For this reason, until Fire Up the Blades came out, I would have preached that Advance and Vanquish was the single most important album recorded in the last decade. So, when I heard that these Vancouver BC natives had swapped out all but their vocalists, I was dead scared that everything I loved about 3” would be left by the wayside. What I didn’t count on was that the group would come back stronger, faster, heavier, darker and overall much better even than on their last disc. Now instead of talking up any one of their albums, I’ll be preaching that 3 Inches of Blood, the band, is the biggest thing to hit the metal scene in the last decade, and not just one of their superb albums.
It really only takes a few moments of Fire Up the Blades to become adjusted to the slick, new 3” sound. The Pipes/Hooper screamed/sung signature vocal battle is ever-present, the melodic hooks are razor-sharp, and now there’s an element of speed and destructiveness in the music that the band had never even flirted with before. “Infinite Legions” sports full-on bone-jarring, motherfucking blast beats that would make the members of Dimmu Borgir or Nile jealous, while the 100% thrash metal breakdown on “Night Marauders” could have found its way onto one of The Haunted’s better albums. “Trial of Champions” and “The Great Feasting Hall” offer up their own unique surprises, including interesting new rhythms and sparing use of keyboards. Alongside these truly new, stylish developments are those anchoring elements that made 3” the band they were before this release. Tracks such as “Forest King” and “Assassins of the Light” would fit in nicely with tracks like “Deadly Sinners” or “Revenge is a Vulture,” while “Black Spire” and the absolutely perfect “The Hydra’s Teeth” flesh out just how much the band has improved since their last release. Every last song on this disc could be listed as a standout, but the four listed below are so impressive, I thought they needed their own ink.
I might be going out on a limb here, but 3 Inches of Blood’s third full-length album, Fire Up the Blades, is probably the most fun one can have without involving vaginas and breasts. For the last two months or so, this disc has been easily the most frequently played album in my entire collection and it’s a powerfully strong contender for best album of the year.