3 Inches of Blood have always been a fascinating band because, despite having an original line-up hooked on hardcore music, the group played a fusion of heavy and power metal, albeit with a few stylistic exceptions like secondary vocalist Jamie Hooper. Even so, Hooper left the band sometime in 2008 due to vocal complications, leading the metal act to break the shackles of their confinement as they progressed or faltered in sound depending on whom one asks. Two firmly rooted camps divide 3 Inches of Blood fanatics: those that consider pre-2009 material a zenith of achievement, while the rest enjoy 2009 and onward thanks to the departure of Hooper. Musically, 3 Inches of Blood have stayed true to their roots for their 13-year existence, but the inclusion or lack of a vocalist was all it took to create rifts among fans.
Since the loss of Jamie Hooper, 3 Inches of Blood continue to move in the direction of what they first set out for, aspirations running higher to become a classical example of a heavy metal band. Here Waits Thy Doom began the shift, but Long Live Heavy Metal cements the change in place as the Canadians soldier on without hardcore vocals--which were always a supplement to Cam Pipes piercing highs--and put emphasis on soaring, seemingly unreachable singing feats. Although Pipe’s falsetto has traditionally acted as a spearhead, harsh vocals are peppered sparingly across the compositions, but never overbearing as they were in the past. The accommodating balance for fewer abrasives allow 3 Inches of Blood’s music to breathe, instead of obscuring instrumentals under the shrill, bossy scream of a microphone-hogging maniac.
Perhaps the most surprising transformation Long Live Heavy Metal brings into the 3 Inches of Blood fold are acoustic passages, which have generally been missing from the rest of the band’s records. Tenderly strummed guitars contrast with heavily compressed axe slinging, creating a nice retro ‘70s feel that produce a number of tribalized-folk passages, with “Chief and the Blade” poised as the best example of combination, although the beginning of “Dark Messenger,” as well as “One for the Ditch” make use of the style in a similar fashion. Conventional harmonies and melodies remain less shocking because they take advantage of the running tap left by the last album. Comparisons will inevitably be made as listeners correlate the two albums to one another, but Long Live Heavy Metal improves considerably upon the Iron Maiden and Judas Priest-inspired approach that embodies the backbone of the 3 Inches of Blood’s music.
Standout tracks include arrangements that bring something new to the metal roundtable, which include predictable acoustic-structured songs, in addition to the organ-charged “Look Out” and “Men of Fortune.” While the rest of the songs do nothing more than build on the band’s core sound, even those that introduce fresh elements seem familiar because of the relative consistency in writing prowess. Nevertheless, the next album should attempt to initiate a welcome deviation in sound, no matter how slight.
Generally speaking, 3 Inches of Blood remain the same with the release of Long Live Heavy Metal, notwithstanding a handful of ingredients that stir the benchmark Advance and Vanquish set. In spite of fans biased toward much earlier material, the band’s newest has the potential to bring them back to fandom, but not without a fight. Only time will tell how metaheads react to Long Live Heavy Metal, but in any case, it succeeds as another fun addition to the band’s discography.