“Just how many bands do we need that sound like Judas Priest colliding with some other, more obscure NWOBHM group,” asked the old guardian who can’t figure out how to like anything new and the too-cool-for-school new dolt who can’t bother caring about anything old.
The answer is simple: all of them, twizzletits. We need them all. Any and all bands that choose to uphold the style of ye olden days responsible for getting us to the point we’re at today deserve a shot at some level of exposure, because any culture’s staying power is equally dependent on those who look backward as it is on those who look forward. If we stop considering and nurturing our roots, they will fester and the tree fall down go boom.
To be clear, just because bands elect to raise banners that result in their being tagged “traditional,” “classic,” “old-school,” et al. doesn’t necessarily mean they deserve to be heard by everyone. That’s an important distinction, and it’s one of the principal reasons sites such as Last Rites continue to exist in an age when the playing field has been leveled to a point where virtually everyone has the opportunity to hear new music at the same time. We are here to help interested parties mow through the chaff in hopes of finding the increasingly rare four-leaf clovers that will doubtlessly shower your brain with infinite fortune upon hitting play and cranking at maximum volume. Which leads us to our next question, presented in a straight-forward flowchart:
To be even more clear, Vortex does not really sound like the entirety of one of Judas Priest’s most radio-friendly albums, Point of Entry. Metalian has, however, been referred to as “Canada’s answer to Judas Priest,” including by yours truly, and record number three does indeed rock with ten times the recommended daily dose of fire. Admittedly, the Priest comparison is the easiest point of reference—founding member / guitarist / vocalist Ian Wilson can wail like a fricken banshee, and there’s no question that the late 70s’ era of JP that produced Stained Class and Hell Bent for Leather make up the essential building blocks for the harder rocking points heard throughout Vortex. A song like “Full Throttle” goes so far as to drop a literal “hellbent for leather” lyric around those killing machine riffs, and “No Home” is oh-so close to being an anthemic Priest closer, but the 30 seconds-worth of vocals that steer the listener in that direction quickly give way to Thin Lizzy lightning for the remaining 2.5 minutes.
You will hear all manner of classic album influence here—from Killers to Heavy Metal Maniac to the force of Riot’s Thundersteel—and once you become properly acquainted with Wilson’s frequently piercing howl, the realization settles in that the single greatest strength behind Metalian lies in the band’s ability to harness an unmistakably classic metal energy that’s powerful enough to melt an anvil. The leads alone here are so abundant and fiery that blood is liable to shoot from your eyes by the end of the full 30 minutes. They strengthen each and every song, and if you can’t at least appreciate the amount of vigor provoked by them in the second half of a song like “Land of the Brave,” then you, my friend, are playing in an entirely different sandbox than me.
Canada wins again, Metalian rips, and Vortex is yet another record custom-built for those who love pure, wild, speeding heavy metal and drinking beer from a hole stabbed through the bottom of a can.