(Eat Metal 2016)
Finnish traditional metallers Loanshark released their debut 5-song, 25-minute EP via Greece’s Eat Metal Records a couple of months ago to distressingly little fanfare. With the constant deluge of new releases in the old-school style these days, it is perhaps inevitable that some albums will fall through the cracks. To date I haven’t come across many reviews or Internet chatter about Loanshark, which is really a pity because this release deserves a better fate. If bands from the school of Widow, Ambush, Air Raid, Stallion, Cauldron, Katana and so on are staples in your musical diet, then you owe it to yourself to check out this fine mini-CD.
Unlike many of their colleagues, Loanshark are not in the business of aping a particular band; rather, they really seem to be paying homage to the ‘80s melodic heavy metal scene as a whole. The songs are well-constructed, mostly midtempo tunes built around classic-styled sturdy guitar riffs, occasional glittering twin harmonies, charismatic vocals with a good bit of personality, and wickedly catchy anthemic choruses. Those looking for wild-eyed speed or reckless double-bass attacks should move right along, although the lead break in the plodding march of the “The World Is Yours” consists of an exhilarating speed romp. If you’ve got a thing for classy, old-fashioned melodic heavy metal with heart, rousing tunes like “Dead Men Tell No Tales” and “Cry Manila” fit the bill nicely. Some of the riffs have this kind of Sunset-Strip-meets-Iron-Maiden quality to them that is very appealing, though some will no doubt object that Loanshark should be faster, heavier and more evil. A decent signpost band for comparison’s sake would be Lizzy Borden, who likewise had a knack for writing memorable midtempo songs that successfully straddled the line between trad metal and hair metal. For a more current example, a band like Ambush is in much the same category (although they hit the gas pedal a lot harder and more often than Loanshark do). For the sake of variety, Loanshark even try their hand at a more epic six-and-a-half minute closer in the form of “The Mirror Lies,” with some nice clean guitars, a solid sense of dynamics, and a fine, varied performance from talented vocalist Ville Saikko.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to find much information about Loanshark. Much of their Facebook page traffic is (quite understandably) in their native tongue, and the CD booklet raises more questions than it answers. Five members are credited and are depicted in the drawing on the back cover, roughing up some poor bastard in a dimly lit warehouse (no doubt, somebody who owes them money, hence the Loanshark moniker); however, the band photos show just four guys. Who is missing and why? No one knows. And why are we crying for Manila? The lyrics don’t really explain. But what is crystal clear is that Loanshark are onto something with their debut EP, a highly enjoyable affair that is easily recommended to traditional metalheads worldwide. I’m quite curious to see if bassist/ chief writer Christian Granroth and his bandmates can carry over the creative success of this release into a full-length album. I hope to get the answer to that question soon. For now, I’ll continue digging the hell out of the EP. You should too.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~