Saturday, 21 December 2013

#320 Heavy Load - Death or Glory

Yes, that is a Norseman fighting with a polar bear, and that, my friends, is what heavy metal is all about. I haven't delved much into the early Swedish metal world - such scenes are the kind which I usually suddenly get an incentive to discover, as opposed to gradually coming to know. However, a friend of mine put some Heavy Load on last night, and since that point, I've had the feeling that I probably should, with all due haste, do some discovering. As well as being a part of the early Swedish scene, Heavy Load can safely be said to be my main incentive to discover more about said scene. 

Instead of a detailed, intricate description of the nuances of early 1980s traditional metal, I think I can roughly summarise it in one phrase; this is metal from the days in which metal was very excited about itself. Death or Glory is no exception, bursting with energy, ferociously catchy and memorable, and filled to the brim with that lovely, buttery lead guitar style which bands just don't seem to make any more, for the most part. If this was made today, it would perhaps be considered exceptionally over the top, almost to a farcical degree in the wrong hands, particularly the epic sections and solos with a sense of grandiosity. However, the spirit of the time is thoroughly soaked into the very fabric of this record, in such a way as to reassure the listener that this is all right; this is from 1982, don't panic. Records like this are every bit as solid as the more renowned albums of their time, and indeed, there is every reason to consider Death or Glory itself to be a classic - it certainly has that spark, that special magic - heavy metal magic. I've occasionally remarked that the best kind of album is a mixture of the unknown and the familiar; you can just about follow where the songs are going, but they likewise surprise you. The best kinds of album, indeed, introduces you to new expectations, and new ideas about what sort of melodies, sections and riffs really make metal, or any genre, what it is - working not within a style, but with a style, to cover new ground - for its time, we can all be damn certain that Death or Glory did just that, and rather a lot of it, at that.

I've been listening to a lot of extreme metal lately, and when you're in that position, it's often far too easy to forget just how good the oldest of the old-school is; as soon as the first riff of this record kicks in, you really feel the heavy metal energy flowing through you - past your eyes flash images of roaring guitars, screaming crowds, fast cars, denim, leather, long hair - precisely the things which rock n' roll, and by extension, heavy metal, always have been about, and always will be. It's rough, uncouth, and probably ought to wash it's hair slightly more often, but by God it sounds great - every chorus is worth singing along to, and every riff makes you nod your head, not only to the rhythm, but in agreement to an unspoken question. Is this good? Damn right it is. The production certainly has the feeling of a time-capsule; transporting the listener back to '82, but not in such a way as to make the record feel outdated. When a connoisseur drinks a fine wine of such an age, they do not consider it to be a wine which is dated, the instead consider it to be a fine vintage, and I can safely say, and I dare say without any opposition, that Heavy Load create an album of a very fine vintage indeed on this one - there has never been a time when Death or Glory did not sound great - then, now, or in decades to come. It is what was right with heavy metal, and what will always be right about it, encapsulated in about forty minutes.

I now have a strong urge to find something denim and sporadically play guitar, but I shall conclude by stating that that sort of outcome is what a record like Death or Glory is supposed to have and, quite frankly, if you don't find an album like this one exceptionally fun, exciting and inspiring, then heavy metal might not be for you.

This is a 8.5/10.

Heavy Load on Facebook
Heavy Load on Metal Archives