Screamer – Highway of Heroes (The Sign Records)Friday, 11th October 2019
The lone European entry in the Screamer namesake (the other three over the years all American acts), this Swedish troop have been active for a decade now, gaining attention for their traditional heavy metal wares. Twin guitars, high-pitch vocals, solid rhythm section mechanics, and the sense of throwback hooks/ chorus all come into play – now delivering their fourth album in Highway of Heroes. What possibly makes this quintet different than others in the heavy metal realm is injecting a dash of that classic hard rock attitude and execution to keep the action lean, mean, and highly engaging.
Aspects of solid 80’s acts like W.A.S.P., Accept, and Judas Priest are probably the three easiest reference points to think about when taking in these ten tracks. These musicians know how to get to the hook early, deliver it often, build things out and leave the listeners beckoning for more axe crazy riffs and potent, searing choruses to join with the proceedings. The upper register of Andreas Wikström isn’t quite in the Enforcer echelon, but he has that penchant for proper note holding at the end of verses/choruses necessary to keep “Towers of Babylon” and “Ride On” highlights. It’s a given most listeners have heard a lot of the riff/tempo combinations before, but again it’s done with style, class, and an extra fun edge that you can’t help but smile to the full neck slide pick runs, the “Wild Child” nuances for “Sacrifice”, or the solid twin axe Thin Lizzy-esque theme running through the title track. It’s commendable to hear a band willing to not accelerate or try to flash chops in every instrumental section – but service the material based on the needs of the individual songs. Add in a production that also entails natural snare/double kick versus digital activities and most ardent metal followers will feel elation over the sonic output that isn’t clipped and compressed to smithereens.
There will always be a place for albums like Highway of Heroes to counterbalance the more extreme, technical, or intricate releases that hit the shelves. It may not be the biggest group of followers – but those legions definitely champion the true purveyors of what they desire out of metal, and Screamer belongs in that worthwhile platform.