Nelson’s flagship heavy metal group’s newest album, Angel Museum, starts off the way that all the best metal albums should: with a vaguely Norse acoustic melody strummed gently alongside synth strings. Then, some rocking distortion swoops in from nowhere and we hear “whoooaaaa FIGHT!” and it’s on.
Angel Museum can best be described as what would happen if Black Sabbath (circa 1970’s), Iron Maiden (1980’s) and Motörhead (late ‘70s) got into a time machine together, zapped right into 21st century Canada, entered a Mr. Nelson pageant and then decided to record the most badass album that they could. No messing around.
None of that “big hair” Go-America! commercial hard rock. Just tough riffs, savage drums, killer solos (courtesy of dueling axe maestros Eric Hoodicoff and Marc-Andre Hamelin) and some of the best metal vocals around. This thing is thrashy, genuine, fun, cinematic and intense. Start to end.
It’s also varied. Savage Blade has an impressive knack for micro-moments, in teasing out real gutpunchers in the smallest places. The sudden drop and then sharp jolt into the chorus of “Torch the Saloon” is a real eye-opener. The propulsive percussion and lead guitar at the apex of the title song drive forward hypnotically until the whole thing falls away in the bells of windchimes and morphs into a hybrid of softer Led Zeppelin meets country-leaning Rolling Stones. Then, after lulling you in, it erupts again. And check out the two-minute mark of “Wasteland” for what sounds like the aural equivalent of a stunt driver swerving into oncoming traffic.
Lead vocalist Nikko Forsberg is one of the best scenery chewers I’ve heard. He’s got pipes and he’s gonna use them. Careening from one classic metal line to the next — bridges of flame, sins of fathers, cryptic tombs, festering diseases, all that good stuff — he blasts into gravity-defying falsetto, half scream and half soulful, primal howl.
I’ve always considered heavy metal to be a bit esoteric — without writing a dissertation on the politics of headbanging, how could one ever fully appreciate it? — But Savage Blade is impressively accessible. Hell, they even have a song about why they love metal and why you should too (“The Way of Metal”). So check out their newest album, (they even have a run of vinyl presses) and, if you’re in Nelson tonight, go to their album launch party tonight at Spritbar. It’s a free show starting at 10 p.m. with an opening set by DJ Barn.