NWOBHM! That stands for the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, a genre that was really big in the early 80’s. Bands like Iron Maiden, Saxon, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Praying Mantis, Angel Witch, Samson, Raven and Diamond Head are a few examples of bands that were on the verge of making it really big. Of course, today we all know which bands actually made it. In recent years there has been a minor explosion of new bands, especially from Sweden, that have embraced this genre, like Enforcer or In Solitude.
Now, NWOBHM was part of the soundtrack of my teenage years and even though some of the bands mentioned just don’t stand the test of time, I will always have a soft spot for it and I think that it’s great that so many youngsters have dug through their parents record collections and took a liking to that whole scene and formed their own NWOBHM influenced bands. One of those bands is Gothenburg’s own Snakeskin Angels (how cool is that name!!).
If you look at the members names (Graveyard, Grim Vindkill and Kallbrand (Swedish for anthrax)) plus look at the pics in the album sleeve, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that they come from a black metal background! But there is no black metal on this album, at least not the kind that we know as BM today, although if we’re talking about 80’s BM such as Mercyful Fate or Venom, you might find the odd influence or two. However, if there is one thing that puts its stamp on this album, then it’s heavy metal. Traditional heavy metal with its roots in the early 80’s. The album opens with the title track, but this is more a two and a half-minute long intro. It is probably to give the album a dark and evil twist, but for me, the intro is a bit too much and should be shortened for better effect. That means that second tune “Black Light District” is the album’s first real track and what a track it is! The refrain goes right into your brain and stays there while the song itself has a really cool 70’s feel on top of the 80’s heavy metal foundation, “By The Hammer Of Beelzebuth” reeks of the early Paul Di’Anno fronted Iron Maiden, a really good song, however lead singer Kenneth Thunderbolt needs to think about his phrasing in the chorus and “Nothing But Pain” is a great acoustic ballad that makes me think of the sound of Metallica’s Ride The Lightning. But it seems like the guys have saved the best for last, “Black Moon Curse” is a total NWOBHM number and a kick ass beast of a song, brilliant and “Wolfbrother”, a heavy and dark metal ballad. But, I must stress that I have one issue with the latter – it’s too short. A song like that should be huge, it should be big, it should be epic, now it ends just when it should start to build up a dark gruesome atmosphere.
Even though the songs on this album are very good and the bad songs are absent, there are a few fingers to be raised at certain objects. First of all, the sound here leaves a lot be desired. This album sounds like a demo and un-produced. Maybe it’s deliberate, but in my world there is no need to sound like 198o just because that’s where your influences are and also I would love for Thunderbolt’s vocals to be more aggressive, on here they sound a bit too clean and kind. There is no doubt that these guys love what they do and there is loads of passion and heart in both music and sound and they do their thing very well, but with a proper (metal) producer and engineer I truly believe this album would have turned out a lot better. As for now, and I must stress that the songs are really good (8/10) the production reduces the final rating with a point or two. But this is cool enough for me to look forward to yet another Snakeskin Angels album.
Jon Wilmenius (6/10)
1. Follow The Snake To The Core
2. Black Light District
3. By The Hammer Of Beelzebuth
4. Nothing But Pain
5. The Great Sacrophagus
6. The Rebel
7. Black Moon Curse
8. The Fire Omega