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Closer To The Threshold

Sky Rocket (2013)
Rating: 8/10

Heavy metal is back!! Okay, so we knew that anyway, not that it really went away, but Nightblade, with their distinctly 80s sounding moniker, are the sort of band we want in the trenches alongside us as we march across the misty moors in search of heavy metal Utopia.

Nightblade are in-your-face metal, no messing around; it’s a punch to the mid-section, a jab in the eye and fangs heading straight for the jugular sort of opus. This is album number two by the British rockers, following on from 2012’s Servant To Your Lair. The quartet hail from rainy Birmingham, in England’s West Midlands – that grey haze of a place that once reared such metal legends as Black Sabbath and Judas Priest. And it’s the latter that this bunch of veteran rockers seem to take most inspiration from.

As soon as ‘Over My Dead Body’ comes racing out of the traps I’m reminded of those classic Judas Priest albums. The riffs are sharp and driving – courtesy of Dave Parrish (from New Wave Of British Heavy Metal veterans Scarab) – and the vocals from Mark Crosby, while not of the Rob Halford pitch, have that same menace in the lower tone, as Rich Lawley’s drums work in sturdy tandem with Bill Fitzsimmons’ hearty bass.

It’s a fantastic way to open an album, the sort of molten metal workout that takes us back to those fiery New Wave Of British Heavy Metal days as the band combine early Iron Maiden-style gallops with that scorching Judas Priest vibe. I wish more modern metal sounded as sincere as this – maybe it’s the British heart that beats within that gives the sound such a gritty, meaningful edge – because when you hear the metallic chug of the title track, with its epic, melodic chorus, you’ll be transported back to those days when denim ’n’ leather were the uniform of choice.

Mark Crosby has a really classic sounding hard rock voice; nothing fancy, but just ballsy in its approach and sometimes that’s all you need. I was rather bemused by the praise being heaped on fellow Brit rockers Voodoo Six, as their sound proved to be too bland on the ears, but when I hear Nightblade I’m reminded of how great British metal can be.

The opening echoes of ‘Devil’s Advocate’ are pure Iron Maiden, but when the track lifts up its head and hurtles toward the finish line its far more demonic, offering us the sort of oily thrash that Metallica made their own back in the early 80s.

Of the ten tracks on offer it’s nigh on impossible to pick a duffer, because the band have gone all out to rock hard from the bottom to the very top. The subtle broodiness of ‘You’ll Always Remain’ comes complete with Black Sabbath-esque riff, while ‘Your Soul, Right Of Way’ is a straight-up blazing rocker that sits nicely alongside the equally upbeat ‘Shadow Of Doubt’.

There are times when all you want in life is a chunk of weighty traditional metal to pick you up, and I think that with Closer To The Threshold these seasoned rockers have achieved just that. The majesty of the New Wave Of Heavy Metal scene has been resurrected and there’s not a falsity to be found within the framework of Nightblade’s sophomore opus. In fact, one spin of album closer ‘On Blackened Days’ should have you sewing one extra patch on that battered and bleached ol’ denim jacket of yours. Thanks guys for a solid ball of Brit rock.

Neil Arnold

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