Originally spawned during the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWoBHM) era, the British metal band Blitzkrieg are incredibly influential and yet incredibly obscure, and I am sure that the majority of metal fans of today remain oblivious of this band, although they inspired the likes of Metallica and Slayer. Of course, the band has gone through more break-ups and reunions than a provincial teenage couple, which may have had something to do with their relative obscurity. Also, with countless line-up changes, Brian Ross remains the sole original member, with his son now playing the guitar (which I think is infinitely cool). The band has remained active with no hiatus since 2002, although the line-up has gone through changes in that period, too, and in 2013, Blitzkrieg released it eighth album Back from Hell.
So, what does that album sound like? Well, the introduction is a brief piece of dramatic dialog which I honestly think is downright embarrassing, and the first time I heard the album, I really feared what would follow next. Fortunately, all my fears vanished, as the title track 'Back from Hell' turned out to be a kick-ass old school heavy metal attack, combining both energy and aggression. Many tracks on the album, including 'Return to the Village', 'We Have Resumed Control', 'V', 'Sahara', and 'Call for the Priest' are within this vein and are wholly enjoyable to listen to for anyone who has a weakness for quality traditional metal. But not all songs appeal to me. The track 'A Complicated Issue', whose lyrical content is heartfelt and honest, takes the form of a softer hard-rock tune in which Brian Ross and an Emma Baxter (probably related to the band's bassist Bill Baxter) form a vocal duo. That idea in itself is fine, but there is just something about the way it is executed that does not it well with me; it might be the fact that the vocal melodies are simply too similar with not a lot of variation and harmonies going on. But it might just be me. You should listen to this song for yourself and form your own opinion. I have seen it described as the best song on the album, so it is probably worth it. There is of course also a cover version of the Metallica classic 'Seek and Destroy' from Kill 'em All, which I think is a really nice gesture in the sense that it is admirable that an older band recognizes a younger band (okay, I guess Metallica can't really be called a younger band anymore, but you know what I mean) whom they originally inspired. On this note, it should be mentioned that, although the anchor style, as it were, is traditional heavy metal, I was quite surprised at the number of thrash metal and power influences heard on the album. This may be brought into Bitzkrieg's sound by its younger members, but it is still pretty cool that such a veteran band draws on elements from styles developed by artists who were originally inspired by Blitzkrieg and its NwoBHM peers.
Blitzkrieg prioritize authenticity over professionalism on this album, meaning that the performance is dynamic and organic rather than clockwork precise – it i in no way sloppy though. The production is raw and perhaps even amateurish to some younger listeners, but it does capture the spirit and rough sound of original NWoBHM, and, in a way, sonically transports you back to the foggy streets of the industrial British cities and towns of the late 70s and early 80s. Regardless, it does take a couple of songs for the ear to get accustomed to this type of production if you are not already used to lo-fi sound productions.
Combining traditional heavy metal with thrash metal elements, this album probably appeals to fans of both old school metal and more modern metal. In any case, given that Blitzkrieg are pretty much among the unsung heroes of the hugely influential early 80s British metal scene, listeners with an interest in heavy metal history should check out the album.
1. Jack's Back (1:31)
2. Back From Hell (4:35)
3. Buried Alive (3:18)
4. Complicated Issue (4:57)
5. V (6:44)
6. Return To The Village (4:10)
7. Sahara (5:25)
8. 4u (2:59)
9. One Last Time (5:09)
10. Call For The Priest (5:21)
11. Sleepy Hollow (5:49)
12. S&D (Seek And Destroy) (Metallica cover) (6:48)
13. We Have Assumed Control (4:06)