Within this new realm of heavy/speed metal bands comes one from Norway that call themselves Black Viper. They’re quite a young act, having only been around for a few years, and their debut Hellions Of Fire just dropped a couple days ago. This disc is a little lengthy, but is comprised of of only seven tracks, so it’s obviously comprised primarily of lengthier songs. Nothing comes off as super epic or anything like that, they just rock very hard in the solo department, and know how to make instrumental breaks fill a decent amount of time. “Quest For Power / The Fountain Of Might” is a ten minute beast that takes on the aesthetics of a later era Iron Maiden song on coke. You know, shifting moods and all, with big instrumental sections, yet maintaining a high velocity.
The hefty guitar riffs and intricate patterns that intertwine with the extreme speed are the name of the game. If you’re gonna have songs of this length that are also complex and have a great rhythmic flow, you’re bound to also have riffs for days. Neatly enough, the drum patterns actually stand out as well. The usage of the cymbals on the album opener resonate a pretty surreal feeling. Moreover, the bass can be felt on this to bottom everything out. This is quite essential, as sometimes the rhythm sections on the guitars getting overshadowed by the speedy and intense lead sections and solos. So the layout can certainly get sloppy at times, but that’s pretty forgivable. The level of skill showcased on this disc makes up for it.
It seems that vocals are one of the hardest things to get to stand out in this style of metal, as all of the iconic grounds have been covered. Unfortunately, they’re the weakest point of Hellions Of Fire. The keys are right, the clarity is superb, and the melody is there, so what could possibly be wrong? Well, it doesn’t go so well with the sloppiness of the music for starters. Sometimes the vocal tracks just sound thrown in there. On the other hand, the singer sometimes bursts out these super high pitched falsetto shrieks that are a little tough on the ear, and lack the smoothness of a Mercyful Fate song. Unlike other albums, they aren’t exactly the forefront of the record, so it’s not terribly difficult to just overlook this. And again, they aren’t the worst thing in the world, they could just use some work.
I like to compare this to a nice wood shop project that was just sanded badly. Black Viper are off to a pretty great start for a band of young dudes that don’t have a lot of experience in the field. They’ve got solid ideas and advanced instrumentation that just isn’t put together the greatest. And of course, that voice could use some work. Besides these affairs, it’s a solid record. This shoe would fit the foot of fans of Iron Maiden and Mercyful Fate regarding complexion, or for fans of Speedclaw, and Exodus regarding fast bands that require a specific taste vocally. Oh, and don’t let that ridiculous album artwork turn you away either.
Hellions Of Fire came out on High Roller Records on September 14th, 2018, and can be attained by contacting the band or label.