Ah, the new wave of British heavy metal. Affectionately known to metalheads the world over as the NWOBHM, the genre's sound was characterized by galloping rhythms, operatic vocals, and guitars that straddled the line between wailing, classical-tinged solos and not-quite- thrash crunch. Epitomized, of course, by its most world-famous icon, Iron Maiden, the NWOBHM nestles squarely in music history between the bluesy fuzz of the earliest stuff known as heavy metal — Sabbath, Purple, etc. — and the heavier stuff that would follow. Most of the bands, however, expunged the blues and straight-rock influences from their sound and took metal into more unabashedly white territory. Interestingly enough, they also shared a deep penchant for melody that never quite ran aground into hair territory. Brought back to life once already by the boys in Metallica during their fledgling days, we now see a re-emergence in the form of Vancouver's 3 Inches of Blood.
In fact, so direct is the Maiden influence that 3 Inches could have drawn the inspiration for its entire body of work from two of Maiden's songs in particular: "Invaders," the lead track on Maiden's landmark Number of the Beast album, and "The Trooper," from Piece of Mind. The first bona fide song on 3 Inches' latest album, Fire Up the Blades, is even called "Night Marauders," and the album is replete with lyrics about blade-carrying horsemen raiding once-enslaved lands blah blah blah. Listening to the album, one gets an immediate whiff of role-playing geekiness. The music fills your ears with images of adolescent boys sitting around a table with game pieces and maps (or a Sega unit), when perhaps they should have been out doing physical activities and talking to girls.
Ironically, the totally unfeminine, compensatory macho-ness of the music is bound to draw female admirers in droves. At least for the time being, 3 Inches of Blood has somehow managed to look cool while Manowar remains a joke. Perhaps that's because 3 Inches updates the classic Maiden sound with a tighter, more thrashing, more aggressive attack. But still, the band has essentially made an entire career out of one idea, so you have to wonder how ironic this stuff is supposed to be. If a song like "The Goatrider's Horde" doesn't tickle your funny bone with images of goat herders having sex with their flock (it's actually about the Devil), there's no way to avoid laughing when the ball-squeezing vocals hit the stratosphere.
3 Inches of Blood
Marquee Theatre in Tempe
3 Inches of Blood, The Black Dahlia Murder, Hate Eternal, and Decrepit Birth are scheduled to perform on Tuesday, January 29.
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For all of Metallica's blatant style-mining early on, no one can deny how potently Metallica churned it all into a new sound. Clearly, 3 Inches of Blood isn't trying to pull the wool over anyone's eyes and walks the line between fetish and parody. Fans, of course, will eat it up. Let's just hope the band is in on the joke.