Iron Kobra – Might & Magic (Released 2015)
There are bands that, seemingly having taken cues from Dio’s whole gestalt, end up with a lot of D&D-adjacent aesthetic trappings. And then there’s Iron Kobra, who, perhaps in an effort to tell the rest of the metal world to step up their nerd game, named themselves after an actual D&D monster, and one that people who haven’t played the game much aren’t likely to have heard of, at that.
If anything, Might & Magic dials the gaming elements back a bit (granted, this is easy to do when you have an album called Dungeon Masters in your discography), and that it to the band’s credit. Iron Kobra are at their best when they’re in old-school, boogie-metal mode, because that’s when they’re at their most fun. Fire! finds the band triumphant in their emphasis on groove and hook, and Wut im Bauch (oh yeah, these guys are from Germany; I know a little German but I’m not sure what that means, and I’m hesitant to Google it because Google translate loves butchering idioms more than I love cheese) follows suit.
The rest of the album is mostly competent, but doesn’t seem to play to the band’s strengths as well. Vanguard of Doom has an intriguing proto-speed vibe but also chops along uneasily; Born to Play on Ten clips along much more cleanly (although it’s very much in the metal-for-metal’s-sake mode that the band seems best at). There are also a couple longer epics here that are…fine; album closer Cult of the Snake is the best of that lot. Overall, this is worth a spin but not life-changing.
Standout Tracks: Fire!, Wut im Bauch, Born to Play on Ten
BAT – Axestasy (EP) (Released 2019)
Shoutouts to Paul for sending this one my way. Here we have BAT, a band name that is utterly unsearchable on Spotify (seriously, go take a minute to try it yourself, I’ll wait) but nonetheless worth checking out. Like Inhuman Nature last week, I’m not certain these guys are crossover thrash exactly, but the term does capture a certain, how you say…you can tell these guys like Anthrax, like, a lot. They seem to enjoy operating in that same thrash but not quite full speed ahead thrash mode, and they also don’t strike me as the sort of dudes who’ve ever met a mid-tempo mosh breakdown they didn’t like.
Also, these songs are punk song short. On a six-track, five song EP (Slash of the Blade is but a brief intro segment for Axestasy, albiet a kinda neat one), only two clock in at above three minutes, and they barely squeak past the line there. And that’s a good thing, because while all of the stuff here is good enough, the highlights are the fastest and most vicious bits. Ritual Fool highlights tremendous skill at both pure speed and the aforementioned mid-tempo bits, alternating between both effortlessly. Long Live the Lewd is two minutes of getting accidentally elbowed by some other dude in the circle, but like, in a good way. Not a bad way to spend 13 minutes, all told.
Standout Tracks: Long Live the Lewd, Ritual Fool
Hellripper – Black Arts & Alchemy (EP) (Released 2019)
There are two kinds of people in this world. There are those who, when presented with two pieces of pizza (or sandwich halves, or fried chicken pieces, I could go on but surely you get it by now) of varying desirability, will eat the more desirable piece first, in pursuit of a purity of enjoyment. And then, there are those who will eat the more desirable piece second, as a means of saving the best for last. What in the ever living fuck does this have to do with anything, you ask? I’m the second type, the guy who saves the good piece for last, and that’s the only rational explanation for how I’ve gotten 3 and two-thirds of these columns without talking about Hellripper.
Hellripper is the absolute shit. Their 2017 full-length Coagulating Darkness is responsible from awakening me from a dogmatic metal slumber; before that masterpiece dropped in my lap, I remember a specific instance of listening to a newly released and somewhat heavily hyped album (that shall remain nameless for the time being) and thinking to myself, “Is this all there is?” All I heard was pedestrian mid-tempo riffs with blast beats underneath, and I was bored. And yeah, I know mid-tempo riffs with blast beats underneath was a non-zero portion of Opeth’s playbook back in their glory days, but Opeth is way better than this stuff. It was kind of a bummer.
And then, within a week Coagulating Darkness came along, and I discovered that yes, there are metal bands who still know how to play fast as all fucking get out and shred effortlessly while doing so, and I was transformed. There’s an entire world of awesome metal shit happening right now, this very second, and it has become my mission to spread the word of this awesomeness to all four of you reading this. Anyway, Black Arts & Alchemy is more Hellripper – everything is fast, a lot of the riffs even take time to work in intricate twin leads, and all the solos shred. The only fault here is that it’s just an EP, meaning it’s the exact right length to get me needing more Hellripper injected directly into my face. Here’s hoping the next full-length isn’t far off.
Standout Tracks: The entire EP