For forty years on, since the halcyon New Wave Of British Heavy Metal era, a movement that spawned only a handful of superstars, there has been a English-borne act plying their trade sporadically through touring or recording like errant paladins searching for honor more than fortune. They never reached the heights of Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Saxon, or even Diamond Head, and their line-ups have been too numerous to keep track of, bassist Lee Payne serving as the lone original member.
Shut off the black metal for a moment.
Unfortunately, the crowd was meager in size for a Friday night Pittsburgh gig, most of the too-cool attendees leaving after the exquisite Lady Beast, whom I’ve seen more times than any other band and who meld old-school metal magic and off-the-rails punk anarchy to shocking and convincing effect, eclipsing their studio material live, as steel-solid as it is. Their reputation as a ferocious concert draw is obviously growing. Just when I think I’m getting tired of seeing them, they remind me of how damn good they truly are. Deb Levine is a frontwoman’s frontwoman, and her band are absolute soldiers. Hipsters wallowing in irony they are not.
Neither are Limousine Beach, the new group formed by ex-Carousel and current Outsideinside captain Dave Wheeler. The Thin Lizzy influence thankfully remains, but the songs have even more going for them now. One could hear Starz, Rex, and Riot in those chords and harmonies. Several of the songs I heard (they have not yet officially released any studio material) are deserving of the multi-platinum radio fame earned by Boston. This is hyper-intelligent pop metal that Limousine Beach is serving up, and you need to find a seat at the table to dig in. I impatiently await a record.
Crown of Earth are a prog metal act that hail from Philadelphia, and most impressive they were, merging Order of Nine to Evergrey and Haken and Threshold successfully, singer Danny Knight stunning the small crowd with his LaBrie-like throat, hitting glass-breaking notes with little effort. With only one album out to date since their 2012 inception, I hope they put some more music on tape and get it to the masses.
The chosen few who stayed for Cloven Hoof were treated to a celebration of a ramshackle musical legacy that not enough hessians have lent an ear to. The ragtag band’s latest album was represented with “Song of Orpheus,” but the classics were what the lovers of obscure metal came to hear. Songs such as sci-fi epic “Nova Battlestar,” the AC-DC-ish “Crack The Whip,” twin-lead feast “Reach For The Sky,” and prized stallion “Astral Rider” from A Sultan’s Ransom, arguably the best Cloven Hoof record, all competed for the hearts of the true. Vocalist George Call mentioned that he had laryngitis, but I would have never known. The singer, who has led Aska, Violent Storm, and Omen among others, performed expertly with a power metal verve that gave the songs a modern plate of golden armor. Boyish axeman Ash Baker wailed like Malcolm Young and Dave Murray combined into one man, his nimble fingers and fun showmanship being relentlessly entertaining as drummer Danny White brought a veteran, rock-dog, Appice-like (pick one) thwack to the proceedings that banged on until the early morning hours.
Cloven Hoof are a band that have been little-known for far too long. That they arrived on our shores was a surprise gift that more should have appreciated. Think of them when Eddie The Head’s favorite East Londoners fill the PPG Paints Arena in August or the next time Def Leppard plays an 25,000 seat pavilion in the summer breeze or whenever you hear those certain songs Metallica covered. You know, the tracks that helped Brian Tatler become deservedly financially secure.