By Allyson Kingsley
Cloven Hoof is an NWOBHM style band formed in 1979 in the Western Midlands by bassist and frontman Lee Payne. Their debut EP The Opening Ritual (1982) is hailed as a classic work, and they have plundered ever forward since then. Age of Steel features the return of their Dominator character, who is resurrected to “wield death and destruction across the galaxy.” Having listened to this work ad infinitum over the last week, I can only give this recording the highest accolades possible.
We commence with “Bathory,” an epic metal song about the murderous countess that simply ensconces their fantastic instrumentation and melodic vocals with a ragged edge. I am reminded of Iced Earth, Helloween, and Overkill with the soundscapes.
“Touch the Rainbow” starts slower and is drenching and emotive as the track builds brilliantly from mellow phases that intersperses with varying levels of intensity before it ricochets into power metal mastery.
On a darker note, we have “Bedlam,” and it is not only about the infamous insane asylum but also about being demented in and of itself. The vocals are phenomenal, with some female choir type vocals heard in the background. The vocals “talk” to each other much like an insane person talks to themselves, and it sounds breathtaking. The lyrics are sinister as he beseeches: “Welcome to bedlam where nothing is what it seems; you know you belong here, we hope you like the screams, escape to a fantasy where all there is what cannot be; escape to fantasy, come with me.” Obviously, this is my choice song from Age of Steel.
Throughout the rest of the album with warmongering songs such as “Gods of War” and title track “Age of Steel,” we are thrown into the heat of battle, which brings to mind the style of Powerwolf and Sabaton. I have to commend the extraordinary percussion that is resonant and powerful on “Ascension.” Mark Bristow sets the tone for the song, and it is genuinely a drummer’s delight. (Note to self to add him to my list of people to meet).
Cloven Hoof delivers unique impassioned songs piped through an excellent production that makes them an absolute pleasure to listen to. Age of Steel is flawlessly crafted and is performed with confidence, class, and sturdiness that is supreme. They are indeed majestic and epic giants of their realm.