Cloven Hoof – “Who Mourns For The Morning Star” (High Roller Records)
Long gone may be the outlandish costumes, along with the tongue in cheek names of ‘Wind’, ‘Fire’ and ‘Earth’ – but thanks to the spirit of Lee ‘Air’ Payne, NWOBHM legends Cloven Hoof are not just still going, but very much onto a 2nd lease of life! Bolstered by the growing ‘true’ metal movement along with a resurgence in NWOBHM, Cloven Hoof release this follow up to 2014’s “Resist Or Serve” album, and a mighty fine one it is too! Immediately noticeable is that it is not a retro or nostalgic trip but rather a modern sound naturally evolved from 80s, completed by excellent sound production that does justice to the material which is mixture of classic Cloven Hoof epics along with more heavier numbers across a range of moods and atmospheres. As such this is probably the band’s first release that has allowed the line up to stretch to its full sonic capability. Undoubtedly, this has been achieved by Payne recruiting new members into the band, most notably the 5 octave vocal delivery of ex Omen singer George Call, along with ex Phantom-X drummer Danny White. Having suffered in the vocal department in their history, Call not only makes up for this but brings out the best in the material with his incredible delivery that could easily match the likes of Bob Halford! Equally, there is sterling lead work from Luke Hatton, whose virtuoso talent shine and burn their way across the 9 rousing tracks here. Literally exploding with ‘Star Rider’ the chugging riffola of Chris Coss’s rhythm guitar melds with Call’s soaring soprano, yet all the while keeping up the energy as well as the catchiness of the song with its singalong chorus before Hatton’s searing solo melds into the thundering rhythm of Payne and White. Unleashing the double bass drumming on ‘Time To Burn’ it could almost be Priest although the irresistible melodies, including the subtle vocal harmonies(!) are what give Cloven Hoof their niche in making them the cult band of today, while on ‘Mindmaster’ the monster steamhammer beat is like a tank revving before firing its wails in Calls screams and Hatton’s guitar – oh yeah, this is true heavy metal alright! For me, the epic ‘Go Tell The Spartans’ with its heart felt passionate matching neo classical splendor and the closer of ‘Bannockburn’ with its delicate acoustics before slashing into a Maide-esque gallop and of course, a huge singalong chorus sum up the awesome talent of this amazing cult band! Like I said, long gone are the theatrics, but now replaced by back to basics playing from the heart in what must be Cloven Hoof’s finest hour.