The trouble for bands like the stoic Elixir in 2020 is that it’s simply not enough any more to have simply been ‘there’ at the time, with the frisson of an indirect link to the be all and end all of NWoBHM worship, Iron Maiden. That game is well and truly up, and, with so many new, younger and infinitely more exciting bands taking up the cudgels of true metal every day, the onus on old stayers like Elixir is to not simply trot out reheats of past ‘glories’; rather it’s to get up, get amongst it, and try and create something of a point of difference to stand out from the ever maddening crowd.
Voyage Of The Eagle, of course, does nothing of the sort. What it does, over the course of three quarters of an hour of stodgy dependability, is revisit some of classic metal’s fave topics – mythology, Pirates, the outsider, the hero – in the process serving up exactly the sort of album that might have caused a bit of a kerfuffle in 1985, but wakes precious few waves today. In many ways, of course, that’s a positive – the band have eschewed any temptations there may have been to toughen up or ‘modernise’ their sound with industrial noises or, worse still, untrammelled death grunting – and you have to give props to some extent to the grim faced sticking to the guns mentality found here. But the obverse to this is that the album kicks off with Drink To The Devil, a song which rehashes one of the most familiar riffs in metal history to set the scene, and it’s an uphill struggle from there for all concerned. It’s hard to move forward when the engine’s stuck in reverse.
When the band gets it right – the anthemic Sail On and album closer Evermore being cases in point – they genuinely sound like a band that still has much to offer, albeit that the lead given to competitors like Russia’s Aria or Canada’s Striker might already be too great to reel back in. On Evermore they attack the job in hand with verve and enthusiasm, ending the album in a fashion that genuinely leaves you wanting more of the same, whilst Sail On is a bona fide, rabble rousing crowd pleaser. Unfortunately for most of the rest of the time the band expends too much energy perspiring and not enough inspiring, although the addition of female vocals on the lengthy The Siren’s Song (which sounds a little bit like latter day Tank) does at least break things up a little, and the Sabbathy bridge piece Horizons also points to some real thought and skill.
At the end of the day, it probably doesn’t matter what people like me think, and it’s possibly a bit rich for a webzine like Sentinel Daily to find fault in a retro sound (we’re not – you are – Ed.). The band have a niche, and a fan base, and if that’s good enough for them then who am I to carp?
Voyage Of The Eagle is released through Dissonance Productions on March 6th. Whether Gavin likes it or not…