Angel Sword - Rebels Beyond the Pale - (8.5/10)
Published on May 24, 2017
While one might argue that Finland’s greatest metal export is of the blackened variety, there can be no question that the country boasts one of the most promising batches of up and coming traditional heavy metal bands around; Legionnaire, Heathen Hoof, and Tyfon’s Doom to name a few. After a demo and two EP’s Angel Sword released their debut full length, Rebels Beyond the Pale, which should certainly catapult this Helsinki-based four piece onto that soon-to-be-storied list. First released independently on Bandcamp, followed by a cassette release through Heavy Chains Records and a CD/vinyl release by Underground Power Records, the band’s first foray into full length territory should certainly turn heads.
Like many albums in the style, Rebels Beyond the Pale took several spins to fully click with me. I honestly don’t know if it was the gruff, mid-range vocals of Jerry Razors or the general laid back feel of the album as a whole that put me off on my first spin or two, but something magical happened a few listens in when things clicked. Taking a classic heavy metal formula based in the grand traditions of early German heavy metal and the ballsy approach of the USPM scene combined with the rollicking feel of early NWOBHM, Angel Sword’s album is a catchy as hell ride through nine tracks and thirty-three minutes of classy heavy metal.
The previously mentioned vocals of Jerry Razors take some getting used to, as it’s a gruff mid-range style that sounds quite nasally, yet when the backing vocals harmonize during the choruses things are as smooth as silk. His vocals aren’t quite as gruff as Lemmy, yet visions of whiskey drinking and chain smoking are still summoned. His throat-on-fire crooning is the perfect compliment to the rollicking, energetic riffing, which bridges the likes of Saxon with Angel Witch for a sound that is catchy, melodic and driving. The leads, like the rest of the music, are quite laid back offering just a bit to sink your teeth into before fading. The crystalline production works wonders for the band’s sound, with no hint of extraneous loudness to the mix, which allows the vocals and riffs to shine quite brightly.
Rebels Beyond the Pale combines wondrously harmonized vocals, punchy riffing, and a ridiculous amount of hooks. Tracks like “Lords of Thunder” and “Lightning Runners” show off energetic pacing and choruses that demand to be sung along, showcasing Angel Sword at what they do best while “Break the Chains” and “Midnight Rider” show a touch more hard rock in their sound, with swaggering, bluesy riffs that ooze Judas Priest. For all its amazingly catchy glory, Angel Sword begins to falter towards the end of the album, as “Sign of the Raven” with its Manilla Road-like riffing and the slow burning “Witches Never Die” don’t quite bring the same energy as the rest of the tracks. Despite a minor misstep, Rebels Beyond the Pale remains a fantastic heavy metal album that should please fans of traditional metal who don’t mind a rather laid back approach. The album is full of solid hooks and classy riffing, so give it a few spins to and let it grow on you.