Is there a band anywhere that are more unashamedly, ridiculously metal than Canada’s 3 Inches Of Blood? Not too many contenders, I’ll warrant. I’ve been a confirmed fan since hearing ‘Destroy The Orcs’ on the radio way back in 2002 – the band were in the country for their first ever UK tour that week, and the number of people that saw them at my then-local venue (Tunbridge Wells Forum) numbered less than twenty. Despite the turnout, the six-piece (as they were at the time) tore the roof off the place and ensured their place in my gigging and CD-buying habits from then on. The only member of the band that remains from that lineup is the improbably-named vocalist Cam Pipes, but their core sound remains the same – testosterone-laden, fist-pumping, high-camp heavy metal which gives not one solitary fuck about trends.
Being completely honest, the band’s last couple of albums have left me feeling a little let down. Whilst having nothing wrong with them per se, the first two records had such a surfeit of raw energy that I thought that maybe the personnel changes, particularly the loss of longtime member Jamie Hooper to throat problems, might have damaged something so fundamental to 3 Inches Of Blood‘s essence that they might never fully recover. Long Live Heavy Metal is, I’m almost stupidly happy to report, a pretty unequivocal raised middle finger to that idea. I’ve expounded on the idea that the best and truest metal carries its tongue firmly in its hirsute cheek many times before, and 3 Inches Of Blood have long been one of my go-to bands to illustrate my point. Taking all the most over-the-top elements of King Diamond, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden and delivering them with unmatched conviction and a sack full of catchy riffs is the recipe for success here, as it was on the band’s first two records, but 3 Inches Of Blood have apparently taken some extra influences on this time around.
Note that I didn’t say ‘new’ influences. That would make me a massive liar, you see, as there’s resolutely nothing ‘new’ about this. No, what 3 Inches Of Blood have added here is a slightly more thoughtful approach to their songwriting and bolstered it with the occasional appearance of some VERY Deep Purple-esque solo sections – see ‘Leather Lord’ for some prime Blackmore worship, and ‘Look Out’ conjures up Jon Lord most impressively. Even that most prog of all instruments, the flute, makes an appearance on the folky instrumental ‘Chief And The Blade’ which segues neatly into ‘Dark Messenger’, a Mercyful Fate tribute so faithful I had to check for Andy LaRocque’s name in the credits. Otherwise, it’s pretty much business as usual for 3 Inches Of Blood, which is no bad thing considering their huge competence at this sort of balls-out pure metal.
So yes, there’s a distinct lack of desire to even reconsider the wheel, much less attempt to reinvent it. When something does its job as well as the humble wheel though, where’s the need to change it? Put tyres on it to cushion the ride, maybe change how it’s made to strengthen it, even chrome the thing and make it enormous if you want – the principle remains the same. Long Live Heavy Metal, with its lyrics about slaying dragons, saucy leather-clad ladies and mighty battles may not be loaded with the latest fashionable polyrhythms and sub-bass drops that the kids seem to be all about lately, but what it DOES happen to be is a glorious return to blazing form for a band who epitomise all that is so utterly loveable about big, dumb heavy metal.