Cloven Hoof have worked hard over the last 12-13 years re-affirming their place as legendary having been a part of the original NWOBHM movement. All classic material is well revered, having reformed and released a couple of releases in 2006 with ‘Eye of the Sun’ and 2014’s ‘Resist or Serve’. Main man Lee Payne on bass has been an ever present force, although it’s been tough dealing with many line-up changes. However, with the addition of George Call on vocals (Aska/ex-Omen) and Aska’s drummer Danny White, Payne states “we’ve come close musically, but never 100% happy with the vocalist”. Well Cloven Hoof have found their man with George Call. Already known for his previous work, the vocals are simply stunning and really augment the fine music that the Hoof throw at you. Indeed, this is a fire breathing dragon, one that’s been some time coming, indeed this is their greatest album to date.
‘Star Rider’ immediately bursts into your ears. Powerful, hard hitting, it works. The venom applied during ‘Neon Angels’ is also complimented by the vocal. Possessing melody and some surprising high ranges screams, this is pure class. Again like the opener, the lead guitar work of Luke Hatton is breath taking. Whilst there are elements of the bands NWOBHM roots, there is a definite nod to the US power metal scene, the traditional metal assault made great in the late 80’s. You can hear this on ‘Go Tell the Spartans’. If you ever wanted proof that these gents are seasoned songwriters, then look no further than the epic close ‘Bannockburn’. This sounds like more modern Maiden, but with perfect production that’s crisp, bright and all things in between.
The musical art conceived by this album is stunning, the vocals convey differing styles and range whilst maintaining a balance with the music. Which, going to the music alone, I feel as if it has been given a lifeline and is allowed to breath more. The solo work and general feel is fresh and invigorating. Out of my want list this year, well ‘Who Mourns for the Morning Star’….I do! It is an essential metal album crossing a perfect boundary between that original NWOBHM scene and more exuberant traditional US power and heavy metal. You get everything in between, a fantastic album for any self-respecting metal fan. Good work indeed.
(9/10 Paul Maddison)