One of the pearls in my collection is certainly the 1989 album of the British CLOVEN HOOF. An album like a dream, perfect, passionate, full of variety and absolutely timeless. Everything fits here, well except the stupid cover maybe...
Founded 1979, the band published their first record in 1982. Without a deal they published the 4-Song-EP "The Opening Ritual“ on their own Elemental-Label, which is one of the (unaffordable) metallic mega-rarities today. The company NEAT gets the attention of the four little devils and they get signed. The self-titled album is released 1984 and convinces with lengthy, epic pieces ("The Gates Of Gehenna“, "Return Of The Passover“) as well as with speedy, catchy numbers ("Crack The Whip“, "Laying Down The Law“). It takes two years until the band makes an uncommon step with "Fighting Back“: It is a live record, but containing new songs only.
After that, the excellent "Dominator“ album was released, where the new singer Russel North (BUDGIE, TREDEGEAR) was presented. A lucky choice, because he brings CLOVEN HOOF into new vocal spheres. The guy is definitively blessed with one of the most charismatic voices in the metal world (He was by the way in the final round for the new IRON MAIDEN singer position...). But even that album is nothing against a monument like "A Sultan's Ransom“. Where should I start? The songs are the best of what has come out of England since IRON MAIDEN's "Piece Of Mind“ or JUDAS PRIEST's "Painkiller“. Excellent pieces like "Astral Rider“ or "1001 Nights“ are just amazing and are even outclassed by "Highlander“ and the incredible "Mistress Of The Forest“. But all the other songs are excellent too. These were the more epic songs, "Forgotten Heroes“ and "Mad, Mad World“ are more commercially oriented songs with hypnotic refrains.
"Jekyll & Hyde“ has excellent, straight ACCEPT riffs. Want speed? Then listen to "Death Valley Racer“, what a refrain! I could rave about every song on the album, the bandwidth of CLOVEN HOOF is colossal – this album is a sanctuary for me. Too bad that there still isn't a re-release out. I got a bootleg here, but it's ok regarding the quality and has 4 bonus tracks and contains all the lyrics...maybe I watered the mouth of someone who reads this till now...you can get this for example at Hellion Records. (Online April 26, 2004)