Album Review: “Heathen Cross” by Cloven Hoof

Cloven Hoof began its career during the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. The band did not enjoy the success of its contemporaries in Motorhead, Iron Maiden or Judas Priest. However, founding bassist Lee Payne has soldiered on, waving the metal banner with a new line-up. Heathen Cross features Jag Panzer frontman Harry Conklin lending his powerful pipes on this new effort. “Benediction” opens the album with a haunting organ, a choir, and a slow drum. “Redeemer” is the first proper song on Heathen and it is old school metal with its galloping tempo and duel guitar riffing.

“Do What Thou Wilt” is notable for its melodramatic opening and a grooving midsection. The band straddles on the comical side despite the occult subject matter of the track. The main riff and rocking chorus make it enjoyable nonetheless. “Last Man Standing” is the initial single on Heathen and the most dynamic track on the album. It has a solid guitar solo, but the track is slightly tedious compared to the other songs. We hear the Iron Maiden influence on “Darkest Before The Dawn” with its tight riffing and rhythm changes. The guitar harmonies would make Dave Murray and Adrian Smith take notice and the bass line is the icing on the cake. “Frost And Fire” is a carefree rocking track with its fast tempo and Conklin’s wailing vocals. The last two tracks on Heathen are the longest. “Sabbat Stones” is reminiscent of early Dio, with its epic sound that feels like a knight embarking on a journey. “The Summoning” is darker in tone and has some intricate guitar phrasing. The song changes several times throughout its six minute duration and ends the album in grand fashion.

Heathen Cross showcases what metalheads love about the NWOBHM with its dark lyrics, guitar virtuosity, and punk attitude. Yes, Cloven Hoof is over the top at times but it is all in good fun. The band has some top notch musicians and it is obvious these guys have honed their chops over the years. The album flows well, maintaining a spooky tinge from beginning to end.

The specter of ’80s metal is in full form on Heathen Cross. This will appease fans of traditional metal and power metal, possibly thrash, too. It is a shame Cloven Hoof did not enjoy greater success forty years ago. However, this album should give them greater exposure on the metal scene. Heathen Cross is devilish fun.

Check out the band’s official website here:

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