They cannot be serious. “Long Live Heavy Metal” has to be the most trite album title I’ve ever seen. Is it a wind-up, a 1970s K-Tel re-release or a genuine belief, I asked myself. I had to find out so I volunteered to review it. Counterbalancing my scepticism was the fact that, as I discovered, this is 3 Inches of Blood’s fifth album release, and their label Century Media do not sign mugs.

The jollity begins with “Metal Woman”. 45 seconds of bombast is succeeded by a straight drum beat and a bit of gnarly bass, then we hit the road to cheesedom as a shrill sounding gentleman dispenses the most bog standard Power Metal track you could ever hear. A few growls make it different. Helloween, Manowar, Hammerfall, Firewind, At Vance – 3 Inches are blood brothers with all these people. Still, it’s cheery enough to tickle the fancy of this grumpy git.

Oh gosh, “My Sword will not Sleep” sounds the same. The statutory Power Metal reference to the bladed weapon is in the title, so that’s ok. It’s comforting to know that clichés abound. They’re easy to spot: “I will have my revenge. You will die by my hand”. But it’s lively and good fun. In some spheres of music, it’s Total War. Here it’s Total Power Metal. Time for a flashy guitar solo. I’m not especially struck on the vocals – Mr Shrill sounds like a 12 year old shouting – but it’s all there and instrumentally it’s vigorous and magnetic. The melody level is off the scale. The ridiculously extravagant ending provides us with something appropriately over-the-top. And so the breakneck journey continues. Chugga-chugga-chugga. “Leather Lord” is echoed in tones of mysterious darkness but the band plays on merrily. This is non-stop action. I hear the word “vengeance”. I don’t know who the God of Power Metal is, but 3 Inches of Blood must pray daily to it.

And then there was a moment of genius. I was enjoying “Long Live Heavy Metal” and wondered how long all this epic cheese could go on for without inducing sameness, and then “Chief and the Blade” came along. It is more than a nice interlude. The colourfully acoustic start is accompanied by a haunting flute. It’s a kind of “Losing My Religion” but an instrumental and with attitude. The firepower is soon back. Melodic movement combines with banal lyrics and stirring music. It’s easy to work out the track titles as they are pronounced with great emphasis. “Dark Messenger” (said slowly and in capitals) speaks of your evil and brings pain, apparently. But it’s fast and catchy, catchy, catchy. Even faster and more complex is “Look Out”. For all its warning, “Look Out” isn’t in the least threatening. The jolly melo-rhythm pumps on. We have gods and legends and knights and dragons. Someone (can’t remember who) “sends you to heaven and shot you to hell”. After a rare break, there’s a guitar and keyboard solo, a nice fade out and as smooth as smooth, the original refrain returns. The drummer is going 10 to the dozen. It all blends together very well. We’ve reached track 6. We’ve reached the half way point. Time to get my breath back and the chance for a nice cup of tea and a biscuit.

As the second half began, and more surging power metal came my way, it occurred to me that this is all a little reminiscent of Sebastian Bach and Skid Row in the flamboyance. The vocalist has switched to “super shrill” now. The guitar work is rampant. The drummer joins in the metal march before we go back to the simple and easy to remember sing-a-long on the subject of “4000 Torches”. There’s no sign of any silly metal ballads – a plus point there, Blood boys – and in fact the guitars and drums are getting faster and harder. It’s totally in your face but not entirely without subtlety. The drummer is hammering holes through the floor. “Leave It on the Ice” is totally rock n roll. It’s breathless and breathtaking. So urgent sounding is the singer on “Die for Gold (Upon the Boiling Sea IV) that I began to wonder if he needed a pee. Again it is in your face but with tinges of sophistication in the instrumentals. I preferred the exciting “Storming Juno” which followed. The rampant gallop is well controlled. There’s real energy and a great chugging riff. The juxtaposed dark vocals make a nice change. The most complicated track is “Men of Fortune”. The energy remains and I hear of a “glorious triumph” but unusually it slows down to a mellow section. The tension is still there. The heroic clean chorus took me by surprise. This acts as a foil for further flamboyant guitar work. It builds up epically and it’s no surprise that we’re back to the races. There’s more movement and development here than most. I’m not sure I was ready for it. “Men of Fortune” is scarily sophisticated and I kind of felt comforted to return the Power Metal norm. The album ends in ambient mode. Like “Chief and the Blade” earlier, “One for the Ditch” starts acoustically. The sound is mediaeval. The drums cut in and signal war. The track builds up to a refreshing guitar solo with those battering drums continuing and a heroic chorus. There’s a nice guitar touch to end this track which is like a cool drink after a work out on a hot day. So ends this entertaining album.

I’ll tell you what. This album has a crass title but it’s good. 3 Inches of Blood are accomplished and enthusiastic musicians for sure and, clichés apart, know how to deliver a lively and catchy tune. “Long Live Heavy Metal” won’t be everyone’s cup of tea of course but then neither is black metal. It just needs to be taken for what it is. On that basis, I found it very enjoyable. Long Live Power Metal!

(7.5 / 10 Andrew Doherty)