Even given the huge amount of releases which a website such as ours gets sent on a daily, never mind weekly or even monthly, basis, it’s hard to imagine that this fifth album by US power metal innovators Attacker fell through our net when it first surfaced earlier this year. But, trawling through a literally massive back catalogue of such overlooked material, it soon became obvious to this team member that such an unforgiveable oversight had to be rectified – and pretty sharpish!
For those of you not familiar with this New Jersey quintet, their tale is almost as epic as the material from which they take their inspiration: their debut album, ‘Battle at Helm’s Deep’, was one of the earliest releases on the now legendary Metal Blade label – and, quite rightly, regarded as a true classic of the power metal genre as, along with their West Coast contemporaries Queensrӱche they laid the foundations of the sound which came to define the genre over the next three decades and charted a course which led to acts such as Iced Earth and Nevermore claiming the crown which many fans believe should have been Attacker’s by right. However, inevitably, the band’s story would follow a path which would befit the tales of Tolkien and the other literary sources, both fictitious and mythic-factual, by which they are influenced: splitting up shortly after the release of their sophomore album (1988’s ‘The Second Coming’), they re-emerged from hibernation a quarter of a century later, and , via mostly all-too-occasional live showcases, tried to rebuild their aborted career and take up their rightful place at the top of the US PM tree…
Again, it’s not been an easy ride, but a further decade down the line here we are with what can easily be argued to be the band’s strongest album since their epic debut: this time, the lyrical theme switches from the mythos of Middle Earth to that of Biblical Judaea, but the material is no less effective for this switch in focus, as this is an album which is steeped in the basic principles of great power metal – huge, sweeping melodies combined with sharp, abrasive riffs, with its epic themes delivered with ferocious simplicity, the emphasis being very much on delivering a series of hard hitting heavy metal tunes rather than risking spoiling the effect with unnecessary, overblown histrionics.
If anything, the album shows a little bit too much restraint, as you feel that the twin guitar attack [sic!] of Mike Benetatos and Pat Marinelli really wants to be given a much longer chain, but it is that sensation of (by and large) holding back which makes the musical delivery all the more impressive. One area which is not restrained, however, is the huge vocal of Bobby Lucas, who more than lives up to his nickname of ‘Leatherlungs’: his performance lies somewhere between Udo Dirkschneider, Bruce Dickinson, Geoff Tate and Ripper Owens and easily stands more than favourable comparison with just about every PM vocalist you care to name, and in fact beating most of them into submission.
With ‘Giants Of Canaan’, Attacker show they are most definitely not a footnote in heavy metal history, but have the potential to once more be a force to be reckoned with: a few more European festival dates next summer might help them aid their cause…
As They Descend / Giants Of Canaan / Trapped In Black / The Hammer / Washed In Blood / Sands Of Time / Curse The Light / Black Winds Calling / Steel Vengeance / Born Into Battle / The Glen Of The Ghost
‘Giants Of Canaan’ is out now on Metal On Metal Records: http://metal-on-metal.com/shop/#!/~/product/category=2707104&id=19249116