|Hard Rock, Heavy Metal
Cruz del Sur Music, Shadow Kingdom Records (2015)
October 7th, 2014 / January 13th, 2015
Release length: 37:11
Guns for Hire isn’t really that rich an experience overall as far as audio quality goes. In fact, much of the album sounds fairly thin, keeping the spirit of eighties analog cassettes alive, but in a rather digital manner. Thankfully there’s still a decent amount of distortion to the guitars that bulk them up, and the bass guitar has a pretty loud presence that keep the rhythm as alive and addicting as the crisp drums. The vocals, however, can come off fairly flat and uninspiring. But, even at their weakest, you can tell Ian Belshaw is trying, which is greatly appreciated. It all ends up a mixed bag, really. Some of the Heavy Metal oriented cuts end up having a stronger presence, even carrying a little extra energy all around, though the Hard Rock entries that aren’t quite channelling the band’s inner Judas Priest rely more on tone to keep them afloat.
The best example of this is right at the very start with “Angels in Black Leather”. After the just over forty seconds long introduction, you are met with Lucifer’s Hammer or even Angel Witch grade harmonies, backed with the loud bass guitar pulse which can sometimes dwarf the superb classic Heavy Metal riffs and layered vocals. “They Took Her Away” is a very grim track with a strong Folk influence, as if hanging out in some renaissance fair and listening to a minstrel spin a depressing yarn, though with a full fledged band behind him. But the most impressive ends up being “Perverse Altar”. There’s some superb musicianship on this one, especially during the extensive guitar solo which has just the right amount of support from the drums, and the hint of Punk found in the chorus is simply addicting. The only thing is that, while only five minutes, it can seem to drag on a bit, making you wish some of the fat like the slower segment following that solo were trimmed.
Then there’s the Hard Rock material. “Don’t Close Your Eyes” really sticks to the gritty back alley atmosphere that only treads into the NWOBHM territory through the hooks in the chorus. These, however, present one hell of a dark environment to the song, as if listening to Alice Cooper or Judas Priest, the latter of which can also be felt on “Convict at Arms”. The loud hum of the bass guitar makes bobbing your head along to the mixture of gritty eighties Hard Rock attitude and the subtle NWOBHM-grandeur impossible to resist, not to mention a little extra range in the vocals that can incorporate slightly harsher harmonizes.
So does this mean Guns for Hire isn’t worth your time? Not at all. While a richer sound would definitely have been nice considering the crisp presentation we are given, this isn’t as glaring an oversight when listening to it on the original twelve-inch vinyl format. But even on CD or digital download, you’ll find plenty of addicting songs on this release to have you coming back. Convent Guilt won’t replace any of the legends or pioneeres behind Heavy Metal’s past or current revival, but Guns for Hire is a nice accompanying piece to both worlds that deserves to be heard.
01. Angels in Black Leather – 4:14
02. Don’t Close Your Eyes – 6:06
03. Perverse Altar – 5:18
04. They Took Her Away 3:31
05. Guns for Hire – 4:43
06. Desert Brat – 5:18
07. Convict at Arms – 4:32
08. Stockade – 3:32
|Initial Pressing Score: 7/10
via Clawhammer PR.