Newfoundland-based Category VI do all the basics right on this, their second full-length release, and then some; But somehow the album leaves the listener wanting more, despite the fact that that the band has all the chops required to secure a comfortable place in metal’s second division.

Some of this is to do with the production, which is pleasingly direct but nevertheless lacks the precision and polish that material of this nature requires, and some of it concerns the song writing.

Make no mistake, guitarist Geoff Waye is a true riff monger of the very highest order. On several occasions (but especially at the start of the very metal Mirror) during the album your reviewer found himself stopping what he was doing because his hands had involuntarily taken up position on the ol’ air guitar in reaction to what the ears were hearing; However traditional heavy metal of the kind Category VI produce cannot exist by riffs alone, and occasionally the songs feel bereft of the sort of melodic heft that the true giants of the genre always bring to the table.

This problem can also, by extension, be attributed to the vocals of Amanda Gosse; the woman can sing, but too often her naked voice sounds a bit exposed as she’s forced to carry what melody exists in the songs by force of talent and will alone. A bit more attention to vocal melodies and, perhaps, backing vocals might make all the difference, because tracks like opener Strike of the Axe certainly have a lot going for them, falling as they do somewhere between fellow Canadians Kobra and the Lotus and Unleash the Archers.

Arise is probably the best track here, commencing with an elongated solo that brings to mind Judas Priest’s Heavy Metal before settling into a mid-paced gallop of quasi-epic proportions, the bass of Keith Jackman thundering out of the mix and rattling the speakers in highly pleasing fashion, but lovers of meat and potatoes metal of the classic kind will find more than just the one track here piquing their interest. Definitely a band to keep tabs on.

War is Hell will be released by Killer Metal Records on June 30th.