The very best traditional heavy metal, whether it be original vintage or something a little fresher on the palate, has the power to transport the listener back to the genre’s glory days; in this listener, that sparks memories of beer-fuelled train trips to London to scour independent record shops and market stalls for the latest underground treasures; of hours ‘distressing’ denim cutoffs in preparation for their transformation into stud-emblazoned battle vests, and of trips to the Hammersmith Odeon to worship at the altars of the old Gods.
All of which makes Endless Halls of Golden Totem, and it’s progenitor, Blazon Rite, one of the best traditional metal combinations to assail your not-so-humble interlocutors ears in a long, long time, as after just one listen I was already considering an expedition to the parent’s loft to seek out one of those old vests. And even more remarkable is the fact that these Philadelphians only formed a couple of years ago.
In simple terms, tracks like Put Down Your Steel (Only For The Night) and the utterly mesmeric The Night Watchman of Starfall Tower are absolutely faultless pieces of true metal, fusing a raw, unbridled energy (the album was recorded in guitarist James Kirn‘s basement) with superior chops and songwriting smarts to create a seething mixture of the best of metal ancient and modern. The latter is pure British steel – think Priest and the first Clovenhoof album as seen through an American filter that embraces names like Brocas Helm and Slough Feg to create an utterly monstrous result.
Seriously, there is not a single chink to be found in Blazon Rite’s armour; from Johnny Halladay‘s stentorian, declamatory vocals to Ryan Haley‘s earth-shattering percussive assaults, the band don’t put a foot wrong at any point, the whole album given a sheen of unvarnished heaviness by a mix/master job from Will Mellor which, in the band’s words ‘takes the album to the next level’.
Trad metal in 2021 is often the last resort of cash-hungry chancers and self-proclaimed ironists; With tracks like Into Shore of Blood, Blazon Rite prove that still, when in the hands of the sincere and the devout, it continues to possess the power to move hearts and minds (as well as necks) in equal measure. All hail the new pretenders to the true metal throne!
Endless Halls of Golden Totem releases on May 28th.