Freedom Metal (Cruz Del Sur)
By Martin Popoff
Lots to like here from Chicago’s own fireplugs of post-NWOBHM retro-luv, but then again, there’s lots to live up to, given the last couple of the band’s four albums thus far. And I’m not sure they nail it, Bible of the Devil sounding beer-wobbly amongst a scant eight tracks over 43 minutes of greasechain clank. Vocalist Mark Hoffman sounds a little flat hither and thither, and I’m not digging the production, chiefly the drum sound, snare and bass and maybe even ride, the evocation forthright from there leading into a compressed vibe on the rest of it. “Ol’ Girl” is the most Lizzy-ish of many Thin parts, but a gorgeous twin lead sequence opens onto a rickety, spare verse. “500 More” is up a Lizzy notch into “Emerald” terrain, but the vocals again are a bit rough, the performance garagey and ragged, perhaps off the NWOBHM into the substandard stable of bands from Belgium’s Mausoleum label at the time. I’m being hard on the guys, like I say, because I expect so much, and man, the classic metal melodies and great ideas, what to do with them? Faves would be “Night Oath” and “The Turning Stone” (their “Massacre”?), while on the experimental “Heat Feeler,” essentially an acoustic boogie(!), the verdict is still out, but I’m diggin’ its charm and radical change of pace.