Blade Killer - High Risk (Cover Artwork)

Blade Killer

High Risk (2018)

M-Theory Audio

Who likes Heavy Metal? Blade Killer do. A lot. Interestingly, it’s one of the metal sub-genres that I get on with the least, usually. I think bands who live in the cartoonish end of Heavy Metal like Sabaton, Manowar, Alestorm, etc actually harm the metal community by representing everything that the wider world thinks is silly and infantile about metal. It’s not always the case, but hyper-trad metal is hard for younger bands to pull off whilst still feeling legitimate.

I should point out that Blade Killer aren’t pantomime-trad to the point of being themed like the examples I’ve used above, but they do seem to hit every single Heavy Metal trope that you could conceive. They’re called Blade Killer for a start, then there’s the album artwork, the song titles (In The Arms Of The Devil, Midnight Sinner, Tomb Of Thoughts, etc), there are dual lead guitars throughout (ably provided by Jonathan Rubio and Jay Vasquez), Carlos Gutierrez’ vocal style is like a gritty Bruce Dickinson and the overall result is so unashamedly Heavy Metal that I suspect some people might either be all in or fully out on Blade Killer before they even hear what they sound like.

I don’t know if Blade Killer have their tongues in their cheeks or not (probably not, to be honest), but either way, they’re clearly huge fans of the music they make and don’t care if you don’t like it. Which kind of leads me to Blade Killer’s real strength – fun. This album is so fucking fun that I can’t stop listening to it. It also uses brevity to its benefit. Where a lot of this sort of music starts to feel self-important and lose its joie de vivre is when it drags on. Maiden knocked out more than their fair share of 90-minute plus records and they’re by no means the only in the scene who were guilty of it. As a result, I often find it a bit of a chore to get through some of those ‘epic’ records, but High Risk blows in and out in a shade under half an hour and that has the result of leaving me wanting more, which is certainly preferable.

The other benefit of the short running time is that there is literally no filler in here. 8 tracks, all of which have their own character whilst still sticking to the essential formula – pace, dual leads, grandiosity and just loads of metal worship, really. The rhythm section (Kelsey Wilson on Bass and Peter Lemieux on drums) do a superb job of keeping the songs rolling at a solid, high tempo whilst not necessarily trying to contend with the extravagant performances in the guitar/vocal areas. That’s not to say Kelsey and Peter are anything less than excellent, but they show a necessary sense of moderation – without which, this record could be a very different listen.

In terms of their actual sound, there is a slightly more ragged edge to Blade Killer than most of the other trad/NWOBHM guys. When I found out they were an LA-based band that made a lot of sense. There is a smattering of Sunset Strip sleaze bubbling just under the surface and it adds to that sense of fun – you can totally imagine the members of the band growing up around the Whiskey, the Troubadour, the Rainbow, etc and the influence of that scene adds a sense of sex and danger to the band’s sonics. In terms of songwriting, there’s nothing ground-breaking here, but the songs constituent parts come at you so rapidly that it doesn’t matter. When you’ve listened to it as much as I have now, you’re constantly just delighted by remembering which solo/bridge/chorus is coming up next – and that makes for a pretty triumphant listen.

My relationship with trad Heavy Metal being what it is, I really didn’t expect to find a friend in this record, but it’s totally got its hooks into me. It’s deadly serious whilst also being kind of silly, it’s old-fashioned but feels totally fresh, I was expecting to be totally bored by it and it’s thrilled me. Shout out to Blade Killer for making me enjoy this music more than their forefathers did.