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HMS Keelhaul - Anchord

HMS Keelhaul
by Ofer Mashiach at 02 May 2017, 7:13 AM

HMS KEELHAUL is a new Heavy Metal band hailing from Finland. Formed in 2013, it took them three years to finally release their debut full-length "Anchord" in late 2016. Theirs is a very "European" form of Heavy Metal in a way that can't be easily described, abundant with melodies but they have some crunching beats as well. But can they stand the acid test?

The answer is a bit complicated. Generally speaking, the album is pretty eclectic but lacks focus. It seems that they are striding on unfamiliar paths, at least that' how I feel, and checking the ground with each step. Their performance is good nonetheless and there's no doubt we are dealing with talented musicians, but their musical choices sounds somewhat odd and I'm not fully convinced they actually got what they tried to accomplish. To me, the overall listening experience was slightly nerve-wrecking. I could put my finger why this is, but the overall impression is that it sounds somewhat archaic – rather "old" than old-school stuff to cling to. The sound is wide and clear but slightly watered-down with big anthemic choruses that tend to be kitschy, at times bordering on pop with Heavy Metal renditions.

The first track, "Be Gone", starts with a keyboard line that is soon joined by a winding guitar hook that transforms into a big riff. Tomi Kurtti's singing is a bit strained. His tone becomes screechy as the pitch rises and not very rewarding – it could be more accentuated. The song feels a little weary. Then comes "Hand of Death", a straightforward rocker that increases the level of interest. The backing vocals are doing a good job, and the lead singing complemented by the correct attitude and a range that feels right. The Hardcore-ish vocals interspersed in this song also sound good.

The kitsch factor enters the scene in "Lighthouse of Life". It is very catchy but there's nothing here I haven't heard before. On the other hand, I must mention the excellent, eruptive guitar solo. This atmosphere is carried over also to "Fall to the Floor", although it's seasoned with more current funky and groovy riff that pumps it up.

The tempo is quickened in the next track but the atmosphere doesn't change. It is radio-friendly in a way similar to the wave of Symphonic Metal bands minus the operatic vocals. I find this displeasing, which is most evident in the sixth track, "Missing Piece", a cheesy ballad that calls for waving one's hand with a lighter to the Bon Jovi-ish singing (which is not a compliment). This impression is erased in the following track, "Rock 'n' Roll", which delivers the goods and oozes Nu Metal overtones. These overtones are more than apparent in "Back in the Game", the chorus of which reminds me of LINKIN PARK's "In the End". In fact, they are jacks of all trades but masters of none, and their true DNA can't be appreciated due to the multiple influences.

Unfortunately, I had to wait all the way through to the final track to get the Heavy Metal I've been looking for – "Arch Enemies" is a dynamic piece with gratifying riffs and changes of pace, accompanied with a healthy dose of groove, where the band really connected. I would love to hear the band do more of this. This album is full of good ideas that never get exhausted, but they certainly have the tools and skills to do that. I'll wait patiently to the next album.

Songwriting: 6
Originality: 6
Memorability: 7
Production: 7

3 Star Rating

1. Be Gone
2. Hand of Death
3. Lighthouse of Life
4. Fall to the Floor
5. Crashlanded
6. Missing Piece
7. Rock 'n' Roll
8. Back in the Game
9. Seven Years in Hour
10. Arch Enemies
Tuomas Puhakka - Guitars, Backing Vocals
Tomi Kurtti - Vocals
Janne Korpi - Bass
Kimmo Korva - Drums
Markus Lukkarila - Guitars, Backing Vocals
Record Label: Inverse Records


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