It’s hard not to feel excited – elated, even, as the opening of the first track of Helms Deep‘s debut album, Treacherous Ways, rolls like thunder out of the speakers.
Actually, it doesn’t roll like Thunder – this is no bluesy rock revival – but it does roll very much like a glorious mix of Iron Maiden and Leatherwolf, Savatage and just about any other great name from the annals of US trad/power metal that you might care to mention. Fire Rain – the track in question – is hands down the best thing I’ve heard all year and, if the band don’t quite operate at this exalted level for the rest of the album, they certainly come very close.
But who are Helms Deep, I hear you cry, and why haven’t I heard of them before? These are good questions both, but unfortunately I can’t answer them. This is a band that’s snuck up on me, too, but a quick look at the personnel involved may give some clue as to just why this is a band that makes such a deep and immediate impact.
Essentially the Brainchild of singer/guitarist/songwriter Alex Sciortino – and my how this man excels in all three fields – the trio is rounded out by Raven men John Gallagher on bass and Mike Heller on drums. Together they make a spectacular, life-affirming racket that you simply have to hear if you regard yourself as any sort of self-respecting metalhead.
Of course, we already know that Gallagher and Heller are a dynamite rhythm section, but that doesn’t stop a huge, shit-eating grin crack across your fizzog when you hear them break into the galloping romp that is Fight or Flight. Despite the insanely high levels of skill involved in the execution of this song, it’s mission is simple – bang some heads. And that it does, in glorious, pompous, OTT style. This is heavy metal as it should be played, and you’ll love it.
I’m not going to break the album down track-by track, because essentially every track here is the same – brilliant. Just buy the album and prepare to listen to nothing else for a little while!
Treacherous Ways is out now.