These days, getting your hands on information about bands is very easy, thanks to the internet. Back in my teenage days, you had to rely on places like The Friday Rock Show to get your fix of new material… thankfully, the man at the helm, the late great Tommy Vance, had impeccable taste.
And it was on the Friday Rock Show (on Radio 1 in the UK) that I first heard Cloven Hoof, doing a session in 1983. To me, this band were exotic, with names like Water, Fire, Air and Earth… maybe if we’d had the internet back then, the 16 year old version of me would have known that they were, Lee, David, Steve and Kevin from the West Midlands… which isn’t exactly the pinnacle of exoticness…
So, anyway, after enjoying their 1984 self titled debut, the band kind of fell off of my radar as I moved from the countryside to the big city and a plethora of new bands.
Now, as I’ve gotten older, so have all of the bands I liked “back in the day” and many of them should have hung up their spandex many years ago, so while I was excited to hear what Cloven Hoof sounded like these days, there was a part of me that was ready to be disappointed…
Only bassist Lee Payne remains from the early days, but that matters not, as this is so much better than the original incarnation of the band.
Opening number, Star Rider, is arguably the best NWOBHM track since the 80s. New-ish frontman George Call has an amazing range, stealing a bit from the likes of Bruce Dickinson and sometimes from Geoff Tate (back when he could sing), the rest is all his own…
This song is so fucking good… it’s been on constant rotation for days… and the guitar solo… wow, it takes me right back to the 80s and the likes of Michael Schenker and Eddie Van Halen, and whoever else I hero-worshipped.
The only problem with such a strong opener is that every other song has to follow it. And ok, nothing else reaches the dizzy heights of Star Rider, but it’s still a near perfect album.
My only complaint is that the band haven’t nailed down a definitive sound on this album. Song of Orpheus is very Queensryche, and the slower Progressive tones are a sharp contrast to the upbeat opener and the album has a variety of paces and tones. But ignoring that fact, then this is a lesson to all older bands on how to keep things fresh and exciting… something even Iron Maiden haven’t done for a while, bar the odd song or two.
And fresh and exciting is the only way I can describe this album. It hits me the same way that Uriah Heep’s Head First did with me, ironically, in 1983. The thing that both albums have in common is a set of musicians who have really clicked and the song writing is simply world class.
So if you grew up with 80s Metal, or a fan of the era in general, then this really is the most important purchase you’ll make all year. And I hope the band get the success they really do deserve.
Traditional Metal album of the year… quite possibly.