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Cloven Hoof - Eye Of The Sun (CD)

Cloven Hoof
Eye Of The Sun
by Grigoris Chronis at 07 August 2006, 7:18 PM

This band has been a personal favorite for many years now. Thus, the anticipation for the 'comeback' album was way too high. After continuous alterations in the release date - featuring an album's title change, too - Cloven Hoof's brand new album Eye Of The Sun did finally reach my mailbox and I'm proud to cry out this release may be one of the most spectacular products Great Britain has offered the last fifteen years in the area of 100% pure Heavy Metal. The tension is over, thanks to Lee and Co.
Cloven Hoof has always been a unique case for the 'deeds' of British Metal music. Far from being labeled as just a NWOBHM outfit, the 1979-formed band (always led by the stunning songwriter/lyrics 'novelist' persona of bassist Lee Payne) initially created a majestic/mystical/occult image to support their quality music. I always considered Cloven Hoof to be one of the innovators for worldwide 'epic/Sci-Fi' Power Metal (can't prove this, but listen to their albums and then check the years of release). Thus, all of the band's works - from the The Opening Ritual (1982, Elemental) self-financed EP 'till 1989's A Sultan's Ransom (for Heavy Metal Records/FM Revolver) 'closing opus' - do bear nothing less but proud, 'traveling', expressive British Metal music.
The majestic lyrics of Lee Payne, the memorable 'extraterrestrial' voice of Russ North and the royal songwriting (equally of European and American blend, without - I can assume - the band being aware of how much of a testament they would create back then) did have enough impact on those days. Unfortunately, contractual & lineup issues were a good 'enemy' and it was a matter of time for the Hoofs to call it quits after the splendid A Sultan's Ransom album.
Initially entitled as Absolute Power, the here-reviewed piece of art sees (again) Lee Payne as the only surviving member. This had happened again just before the Dominator (1988, Heavy Metal Records/FM Revolver) masterpiece. This leaves not much space for resemblance of Eye Of The Sun to any of the band's previous releases. Still, the creativity of Lee Payne, the excellence of the remaining musicians, the supremacy of ex-Tokyo Rose singer Matt Moretton and the incredibly 'fresh yet classic' production of Tom Galley (brother of ex-Whitesnake axeman Mel Galley and famous for his 'Phenomena' project series) sum it up to a release capable (no kiddin'!) of bringing British Metal back in the ring. Diamond Head, Blitzkrieg and Demon did build some basis some months ago, while Saxon prepare their next assault.
A track-by-track summary follows:
Inquisitor: A Priest-like thunderous riff bursts like fire and in-your-face Metal co-walks with classic CH 'lead' bridges. Initially someone may stiff his upper lip with Matt Moreton's vocal harmonies, still (also to appear in every single track) this guy 'wins' by delivering theatrical - in his way - vocals appropriate for (each end every) stage of  (each and every) song. To cut a long story short: a fresh Metal tune, no questions asked.
Eye Of The Sun: a fancy groove maintained by Dio-influenced guitar themes sets the path for Moreton to carry with his own majestic performance. The beloved CH lyrical approach gives the album's same titled cut an 'upper class' status. Not to forget, a 100% Epic Metal 'bridge' will leave you with your mouth hanging open for awhile. Yes, such inspired Metal themes can be written today.
Cyberworld: A 'free spirit' tune, or so I felt. Sweet vocals from Moreton, beautiful back up harmonies and a song - in general - that rolls fine. Great lyrics - once again - from Lee Payne.
Kiss Of Death: What an astonishing starting twin lead! My personal favorite from the whole album, a gem slightly 'upper' than the rest of the track listing. Rhythm at 4/4 plus 'sharp' guitar riffing is what I'd term as a 'Heavy Metal' tune. Can't find other words to describe this one. Moreton delivers a heart touching performance and it's obvious that the past, present and future of British Metal can be 'saved' in 6'15'' of mystical luxury. The mighty Saxon would love to have this one in their 'chest'.
Eye Of The Zombie: a 'fresh' dominant heavy/doom riff will nail you down, as Moreton's 'retro' singing is unveiled in excellence. It's the chorus theme, yet, that will make you shiver. Nothing but a classic Heavy Metal melody sounding up-to-date. Thumbs up for the blistering Wylde-ish solo, too!
Absolute Power: it's a good thing the album wasn't entitled as such, at last. My less beloved tune from the album; in the Judas Priest's Jugulator vein, this is not my cup of tee so I rest my case. A good tune, anyway, but rather 'naive' for the class of Cloven Hoof.
Whore Of Babylon: Back to basics, this tune is based - lyrically - on the myth of Lilith (the first woman created by God at the same time as Adam - Eve RIP!). Hence, the singing approach of Moreton is more of a storyteller's. Hail! Maybe the most NWOBHM tune of the album, this song features in-your-face guitars with scorching back-up theatrical vocals. The great Blitzkrieg just came to mind…As for the guitar leads, Accept salutes thee with affection.
Golgotha: Another Dio-influenced opening guitar riff, followed by a tremendous choir refrain. Heavy Metal all the way, the 'intermezzo' part of the song strikes like lightning - immense Speed Metal hell, I'd say! - with distorted vocals that (along with reading the lyrics) will put you in the picture at once. Do you believe you can write an opus in just 4' 14?
King For A Day: A mix of the harshness of Accept and the harmonies of 'current' Saxon, I was blown out - again - by Moreton's voice. The guy's capable of adjusting his voice to the melody, whatever the song asks for! The message of the lyrics, of course, is a good motive; never let the bastards grind you down!
Angels In Hell: the perfect outro for Eye Of The Sun. An outro of 7'33 (remember the good ol' days when the 'longest' song of an album was surely the last one?) dedicated to Judgment Day. A wonderful 'dramatic' approach by Moreton, while Payne's bass 'fills' in the beginning create a unique 'Dante's Inferno' atmosphere. To the main song: terrific drumming, sharp riffs, and unique vocals with enough of sentiment…what else what do you want? …Way on high, down below, angels in hell…
Cloven Hoof is back for good. No 'retro' moves, no 'copying the past' releases; Eye Of The Sun kicks major ass and the band is literally starting from the beginning. The diehard fans will discover the 80's 'roots' anyway. For the rest, this is how Britain must 'sound' today (for us); both 'smart' and ample Metal music, can you believe it?

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
Inquisitor
Eye Of The Sun
Cyberworld
Kiss Of Evil
Eye Of The Zombie
Absolute Power
Golgotha
King For A Day
Whore Of Babylon
Angels In Hell
Lineup:
Lee Payne - Bass
Matt Moreton - Vocals
Andy Shortland - Guitars
Lynch Radinsky - Drums
Record Label: Escape Music
     


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