Bishop – Steel Gods

Bishop’s ‘Steel Gods’ is a tribute album. It’s not a tribute to a specific artist; it’s a tribute to multiple, and metal as a whole. Every second of ‘Steel Gods’ is soaked in an absolute love of hard rock and heavy metal music, without even the slightest trace of sarcasm or irony present, just as it should be. These three brothers (brothers of metal, jesus christ!) have made one of the most honest, best-crafted slabs of heavy metal that I’ve heard in a long time, and have done it with an integrity that I thought might have entirely disappeared. Right now, this is something you NEED to listen to.

The songs on ‘Steel Gods’ are like a set of temples to the various gods of rock and metal. Each song seems lovingly crafted with one brilliant, specific artist in mind, emulating the style perfectly but adding the band’s own specific spin to the formula. Opener ‘Burnout Bitch’ doesn’t emulate Motörhead: it IS a fucking Motörhead song, just one that was never written by them. ‘Dancin On My Grave’ is equal parts classic electric blues and Jimi Fucking Hendrix. The title track is a PERFECT tribute to Pantera; just converted into Bishop’s signature style. Recognizing a pattern? Some might claim unoriginality, but that’s bullshit! Bishop’s music is about cementing and paying tribute to all these artists of old while at the same time crafting their unique yet traditional style. ‘Trip To Planet X’ could be a George Fucking Thorogood song at 150% speed and metallized. If that doesn’t make you IMMEDIATELY want to get this album, you can get the fuck out because I don’t want you reading my reviews or listening to Bishop’s music. Seriously, go.

The music here is almost starkly minimalist. There are no studio tricks, no exotic instruments, and no fancy time signature changes. There’s just guitar, bass, drums, and voice, and pretty simple ones at that, and it manages to be better than a thousand bands with more technicality and a bigger budget. The songs are crafted beyond professionally; they’re note perfect. Yes, you can anticipate the changes that will occur, but how is this a bad thing? It just makes it that much more firmly rooted in tradition and easier to anthemically shout along with when hanging out with your friends. And it IS anthemic, don’t doubt it; each song has at least one line that you’ll memorize the first listen through and never forget. The riffs just cement it even further: burly, massive, bluesy rock/metal riffs and brilliantly articulated leads that remind you of AC/DC or other such artists. Bass is present, always audible, always unbelievably strong, grooving force, propelling the songs along without interrupting anything. And the drums, jesus, THIS is the sort of drumming people should aspire to! Perfectly measured, augmenting the music without dominating it, just as simple or complex as needed, and with enough looseness, groove and flow to make it a joy to listen to on its own.

This CD is essentially eight great songs surrounding two absolutely brilliant ones. ‘Seed’ is perfectly representative of Mister Bones, the softer moments of Down, or self-titled era Metallica. Perfect acoustic guitar (with some of the best placed harmonics I’ve ever heard) becomes enormous, crushing power chords, complementing a chorus that’s completely unforgettable as well as impossible not to sing along with, retaining the precisely correct amount of emotion to stir the listener without ever appearing even remotely weak or effeminate. Closing track ‘Jib’ is pure fucking balls from top to bottom, an instance of brilliant, Southern-influenced Black Label Society-style heavy metal with yet another absolutely awesome chorus. It’s one of the heaviest things I’ve ever heard that isn’t a recording of a building being brought down by twelve tons of C4.

There are essentially no complaints for this release. Yeah, maybe the production could use a bit more reverb and punch, or the vocals could be a bit rougher, but I don’t feel right saying ANYTHING bad about an album this good. This is the best hard rock/heavy metal release that I’ve heard in years, and it’s your duty to buy it and hear it too. Above all the brilliant music, this band has the one thing that so many others lack: pure integrity, honesty, and a complete love of the music that everyone can identify with and respect entirely. Tell your stupid friends to stop listening to The Sword or some shit and to pick up a copy of Bishop’s ‘Steel Gods’. THESE are the guys keeping the spirit of our music alive, and you should support them every step of the way. Easily one of the best albums of 2007, and quite possibly a hard rock/heavy metal classic. Hails to Bishop for standing strong where other bands give in or give up. We need more people like them.

WITH MY FEET ON THE GROUND
AND MY HANDS IN THE SKY
I’M GONNA PRAISE MY LORD
WANNA FLY SO… HIGH!
SO HIGH!

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~ by noktorn on August 23, 2007.

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