Right away the NWOBHM and classic heavy metal worship is evident, not just in the music being performed, but also the way it all sounds. Full Throttle sounds like a genuine analog vinyl pressing re-issued on compact disc. The instruments all have a notable amount of noise and static on them like the crackling output in the record player, as if torn right out of the eighties. Other than that, the guitars have a softer distortion to them, often reminiscent of Powerslave-era Iron Maiden – an influence you can pick up on in some tracks like “Odin’s Ride” and it’s similarly epic “Two Minutes to Midnight” approach – right down to the subtle bass guitar presence and echo of the commanding drum kit, not mention the grounded clean vocal performances that can bring a little extra heat into the mix.
Other than the familiar audio quality standards of that particular era, Full Throttle acts as a love letter to the many bands that helped pioneer the style as a whole. “Full Throttle” starts things off with some Manowar attitude thrown into the traditional NWOBHM composition style, presenting the song with an atmosphere rich in testosterone-fuelled fantasy, especially in the far more melodic chorus with layered clean vocals. The energy on display also causes this one to be a little more upbeat, unlike the speed metal tinged “Jaws of Fenris”. Two-step drums and tighter guitar work akin to early Grave Digger present a thick, machismo assertive cut ripe with rougher harmonizations among the cleaner, almost choir-like approaches in the chorus.
Meanwhile there’s “A Havoc Quest”, a darker, heavier brief instrumental piece full of glorious hooks and a fantastic backing from the bass guitar that leaves you waiting for some falsetto and occult-themed inspiration akin to that of Mercyful Fate. Admittedly, it is an odd place to stick it considering the following cut, “Vendetta”, doesn’t really play off this intermission. That very cut introduces main verses that carry themselves with more of a modern sounding stoner rock influence before shifting gears abruptly for the anthemic chorus that channels the chant fuelled side of Manowar. It’s not a bad performance, and the slower guitar solo with church bells in the distance by three-and-a-half minutes in ends up a nice touch, but it feels wildly out-of-place, not to mention clashing with what seems like a growing metal opera concept that much of the release creates up to this point. “Thorium” tries this as well, but is far more successful in the end by coming off less open-ended, and more like a Sabaton styled cut with a dynamic vocal presence that really gets the point across much easier than the aforementioned track achieved.
When you break it all down, Full Throttle brings together most, if not all expectations of the style in a manner that makes some tracks feel as though you’re listening to a long-lost heavy metal opera. Think Flash Gordon in a post-apocalyptic wasteland riddled with viking biker gangs clad in their leather armor, and you’ll get the idea of the ballsiness of this effort that even the artwork can’t escape being dragged into kicking and screaming. It’s an odd sensation to receive though, as the accompany press release paints a completely different picture. According to it, this recording is based on “the last couple of (dark) years the band has gone through,” and seems to have been created as “[…] motivation to live better, faster, and take part on everything [the listener] can to make this world a less mediocre one”. And, well, it definitely succeeds most of the time by taking the band’s pain and hardships as fuel to create a powerful album with conviction, making it a personal experience that anyone listening to it will instantly pick up on.
But does this automatically make Full Throttle a smash hit? Well, no, not quite. There are times where the music doesn’t quite fit, or the material sounds a bit too weak to really hit the listener as intended. However, with the arguable exception of “Vendetta”, there’s nothing that feels like genuine filler. In fact, it all comes through as an expression of the band’s own burdens and beliefs without actually having to be told that’s what the recording is about. Hazy Hamlet present their most matured effort to date, and it’s an absolute shame that Arthur is departing the group come the end of 2015, as his range really does give the band a far more distinct presence in the heavy metal world. If you have yet to check this group out and love the glory days of the style, back when men roamed fantastical lands of vikings and kings with swords held high atop their horses of steel for their beliefs, political or otherwise, then Full Throttle is an infectious romp through the nostalgic eighties you won’t soon regret.