It’s pretty clear that the group has continued to pull influence from the giants of the style such as Iron Maiden‘s earlier years and Judas Priest, a hint of Anthrax, and the haunting melodies of October 31. There’s even comparable nods to powerhouse modern throwback act Enforcer. High Risk also carries a sense of traditional analog production and mastering qualities without actually going all out to make it sound like it’s torn out of the seventies or eighties, allowing the music to come through with a modern clarity that only enhances the atmospheric tones and varying distortions that often come through a little deeper than some of the hooks and guitar solos would have you expect. However, not deep enough to really fill the gaps during the few extensive solos that appear across the eight song release.
“Rush” ends up one of the deeper tracks, focusing more on faster paced riffage and a thrashier preference in the drums, all the while never forsaking the group’s NWOBHM roots. That increase in speed and energy, coupled with a much richer lower tuning, fills up the shorter solos throughout nicely, giving the whole performance a gritty backalley atmosphere that shows off the signature sound of the LA-based heavy metal scene of the eighties. A stark contrast to “High Risk” which, despite still focusing on speed and enthusiasm, it tries a bit too hard to capture an Iron Maiden presentation that the one-guitar approach simply cannot live up to. Yes, it is still fun as hell and guaranteed to give you lead foot the moment it erupts from your car’s stereo, but the higher chords place too much trust in the bass to carry the song for way too long by the three minute mark, making you wish there was a stronger rhythm guitar presence to thicken things up to maintain that high-octane approach to a song that essentially is the namesake for such a condition.
And then there’s the horror-tinged “In the Arms” that carries itself with the darker October 31 tone or even Demons & Wizards “It”, all the while maintaining an underlying level of enthusiasm and somberness one can compare to Iron Maiden‘s “Wasted Years”. Meanwhile there’s “Endangered”, which possesses a subtle influence of King Diamond guitar hooks mixed with a bit of punk, weaving in some crossover moments around the half-way point. While it shows a good deal of range and a far more upbeat and fun environment than others on here, it’s not really that memorable a piece. It isn’t anything to be considered filler, but it just doesn’t really feel like it fits or contain anything all that interesting beyond standard musicianship from two differing genres that go well together in the roots of metal’s earliest incarnations.
High Risk is a pretty apt title for Blade Killer‘s debut full-length album. While glorifying what made the Los Angeles metal scene so influential in the first place, it also pulls in interest from a number of other groups that helped define both the expectations of heavy metal as a whole, and the NWOBHM acts that came before them. It’s an engaging, often high speed romp of metal and rock that thankfully manages to hit all the right notes with those who miss the glory days of the style, all the while venturing into other realms to experiment and mix things up with more positive results than negative. With only a handful of elements that don’t work out, and “Endangered” the only song you won’t really be that impressed by, this long overdue full-length is one well worth checking out, if not just flat out adding to your ever growing collection of bands dripping with vintage glory.