Review Summary: Can you hear the banshee SCREAM?
Brocas Helm are an American heavy metal band. You know the kind, those bands that have fantasy warriors on their album covers, sing about being the warriors on their album covers, released their records on Metal Blade in the eighties, worshipped Iron Maiden and their NWOBHM ilk, never heard of no thrash metal and probably know how to play the works of Bach and Chopin on the guitar. Think Jag Panzer, Manilla Road or Omen. Basically the kind of bands that these days can be found headlining Keep It True and similar festivals. And basically Brocas Helm smokes all of them.
Brocas Helm arrived on the scene in 1982, year of the Number of the Beast and Screaming For Vengeance, and released two albums, 1984's Into Battle! and 1988's Black Death, which introduced the world to the band's positively medieval metal sound. Brocas Helm never quite really got the attention they deserved, being a more traditional sounding band in the thrash metal mecca known only as the Bay Area. Not only that, they apparently got screwed over by their labels repeatedly, and have been unsigned for years, and lead to the band releasing this very album independently.
If these songs sound like they were written back in the day, that's because they probably were; a good deal of these songs already appeared in rare demos and singles recorded in the years that followed their Black Death album. And those that weren't? Well damn, I can't tell the difference, Brocas Helm crafted a collection of songs that make you bang your head and shout along like it's 1984. Just listen to the part where the lead comes in during the title track: it simply makes you feel like a powerful warrior engaging in glorious battle against a formidable enemy and kicking his arse. The songwriting is pure metal with medieval sounding leads. Album opener Cry of the Banshee sets the stage for the riffage that follows, with its bass and guitar playing at high speed and a vocalist that sounds like an old warrior telling the young'uns about his exploits.
One of the things I have to praise these guys for, it's for the fact that they know how to lighten up. Yes, as sincere and passionate as Savatage may be, they might just take this whole thing a little too serious for their own good. I mean listen to Skull***er, or Drink and Drive which sounds like something Black Flag would've done; these guys know that the best heavy metal is meant to be fun, just ask Judas Priest. There is a certain energy that this band puts into their music, almost as if it rubbed on them from years of being among the punks and thrashers of the Bay Area. Most of the other American trad-metal bands sound restrained in comparison, as if they're not realizing that there is more to metal than Iron Maiden.
If you look past the cover art looking like your older brother's Geocities, you'll find one of the purest slabs of heavy metal you'll ever hope to find. Brocas Helm's best album and a notable achievement of heavy metal as a whole, impressive considering their debut arrived 20 years before this.