Harder than Steel
(Iron Shield 2015)
Okay, this one came out a few months ago; however, my efforts to purchase a physical copy in the USA for a reasonable price were stymied until just recently, so pardon the untimely review. There have been numerous bands called Revenge in the annals of heavy metal, but this one hails from Colombia and has been active for more than a decade. By “active,” I mean extremely prolific, as the band has released six full-length albums, a live album, several EPs, and a bunch of splits. Yet they were unknown to me until now, an unfortunate casualty of the chronic “too many bands, too little time” dilemma that afflicts even the most conscientious of metalheads in the 21st century.
Classic, old-school speed metal is the name of the game on ‘Harder than Steel,’ as Revenge marries razor-sharp, high-velocity riffage with boatloads of melody from the glorious 1980s, including both the German and British schools. The end result is something not too far afield from Grave Digger in their ‘Heavy Metal Breakdown’ / ‘Witch Hunter’ days, or pre-pirate Running Wild circa ‘Gates to Purgatory’ and ‘Branded and Exiled.’ Clearly, then, Revenge aren’t doing anything particularly cutting-edge or innovative on ‘Harder than Steel,’ a fact for which they’ve been duly chastised by their detractors. Me, I care about as much about what’s “cutting-edge” or “innovative” as I do about what Kanye West ate for breakfast this morning. When I listen to music, what I care about is whether it’s good, not whether it’s derivative or unoriginal or whatever. There’s nothing new under the sun.
Thankfully, ‘Harder than Steel’ is very, very good. The riffing is powerful and galloping, the melodies are simple but amazing, and the songwriting is unexpectedly strong. Tracks like “Headbangers Brigade” or “At the Gates of Hell” are tailor-made for headbanging, fist-pumping, beer-drinking euphoria. Even when Revenge let their foot off the accelerator, like on “Harder than Steel” and the NWoBHM-sounding “Flying to Hell,” the results are fantastic. Guitarist/ vocalist Esteben Mejia has a gruff voice sounding a bit like early Rock’n’Rolf crossed with lower-register Chris Boltendahl. Yeah, his range is limited and his accent is strong, but Mejia’s voice complements these rugged, no-BS tunes perfectly. (I understand that he changed his delivery somewhat on this album, and that older Revenge works feature more high-pitched screams and so forth.)
The album ends with a spot-on cover of Running Wild’s classic “Chains and Leather,” which sounds remarkably faithful to the original (the ‘Death or Glory’ version, as the liner notes clarify, not the ‘Branded and Exiled’ one) but also fits Revenge’s style to a tee (aside from its relatively slow tempo). Production is excellent too, featuring a crushing guitar tone and a sound that is raw without sounding like it was recorded in somebody’s basement or dumpster. At the end of the day, what Revenge offer on ‘Harder than Steel’ is an album that should appeal to a wide swath of True Metal Lives readership, from those who worship the classic German and British metal of the ‘80s, to speed metal mavens who think bands like Exciter are the greatest thing ever, to the contemporary folk who adore the Stormwarriors, Lonewolfs and Elvenstorms of today. The 44-minute running time is the ideal length for this sort of thing, and Revenge have studiously avoided weak moments or any hint of filler. Revenge deserve to be making a lot more waves in our musical community than they are, so check out ‘Harder than Steel’ posthaste. As for me, it’s time to investigate the band’s back catalog, because this album rules, bigtime.
~ Review by Kit Ekman~