Sweden’s Screamer are the real deal. With hundreds of live shows under their bullet belts and three full length albums already in the can you might even say they qualify as veterans of the scene. Yet there isn’t a moment on their new album, Highway of Heroes, where you could ever accuse that experience of turning to jadedness, or of the band ever dialling in a performance. Because there’s a freshness of purpose about HoH that simply screams commitment to the metal cause (no pun intended), which in and of itself would be pretty attractive. But when those facets are allied to naked, steaming metallic prowess it makes for a nigh-on irresistible mix.
Charmingly, Screamer make not one allowance for modern sensibilities. There isn’t a single idea here that hasn’t been in use since, ooh, 1984 at the latest, and yet the band never sounds dated, much less forced or horror of horrors, doing this as some sort of post-modern ‘pastiche’. This is a serious business, and business would appear to be good for these denim-toting men of the North!
Opener Ride On is a Priest-meets Accept chugger, perfect I would imagine as a show opener for the future; Shadow Hunter is more urgent, all staccato riffage and thundering bass, courtesy of the impressive Fredrik Svensson Carlström. Both tracks come and go in under three and a half minutes, heightening the sense of urgency. Both feature stunning guitar work from Anton Fingal and Dejan Rosić, whilst the latter closes with a scene-stealing bit of vocal gymnastics from Andreas Wikström.
In truth Rider of Death is just a little too close to Shadow Hunter to be fully effective, but the Maidenesque drama of Sacrifice gets things back on track quickly. Standout cut Halo causes genuine excitement, recalling the raw power of names like Satan and Blitzkrieg at their absolute best; this is heavy metal as it was meant to be played, fast, furious, and devil take the hindmost. Break out the cardboard guitars!
After that you’d be forgiven for thinking that things might slide downhill a little, but that just isn’t the case. Highway of Heroes is a strutting piece of radio friendly metal that looks away from Britain and to the States for influence; it’s a fist-punching anthem of some skill, Henrik Petersson’s rock solid drumming propelling the band forward with a force and conviction that’s a joy to behold. It’s also the most ‘modern’ sounding of the tracks on offer – this sounds like it might have been written in 1988!
Out of The Dark recalls the ‘second wave’ of Brit metal a la Cloven Hoof and Tokyo Blade, and comes with another chorus that defies the listener not to get involved in some way or other. The sort of track that would have been released on blood red vinyl as a seven inch single in the mid eighties, it’s appeal is undeniable, with another absolutely superb performance from the rhythm section and yet more hummable guitar work! Penultimate track Towers of Babylon carries on the good work, marrying melody and muscle again with a superb chorus that reminds me of US metallers Warrior and Malice, but actually exceeds both those bands effortlessly.
Final track – and new single – Caught In Lies is a bit more epic, being the only track to weigh in at over five minutes in length, and sadly it just runs out of steam a little towards the end, dissipating some of the momentum built up by the band over the previous half an hour. But that won’t detract one iota from your enjoyment, let me tell you – if you love full throttle metal as much as I do, then this album is surely going to be one of your releases of the year. Hail and kill!
Highway of Heroes is out on October 11th.