Black Steel was formed in Perth, Australia in 2000 by a couple of
experienced local metal musicians. Page had worked with the likes of
Cozy Powell and Brian May of Queen in the past. Harrison had toured
bands like Slayer and Halford while in his previous act. The same year
brought a self-titled EP and a cover of AC/DC's Dirty Deeds released
through Oracle Records. Shows with Deep Purple and Judas Priest
A full-length was issued in 2001 and the band appeared on Aussie and
European compilations. The band next oversaw a distribution and
licensing agreement with Russia's CD-Maximum. The band lost a guitarist
and played several festivals and shows in 2003. A covers CD called
Relentless Force was issued in 2003 which lead to the band's second
full-length in 2004.
BLACK STEEL - HELLHAMMER - STEELHEART
Allegiance had made a name for itself in the mid-'90s given the Aussies publicity push and initiative and with Black Steel featuring Dave Harrison of Allegiance in its ranks it is not a surprise that the same is happening for this band. First signal that the band means business is the pro illustrated and coloured cover. The package and photography just add to the cause. The music does too but not immediately. In fact, the band's stronger songs are assigned the later slots on the disc. The band gets the weaker songs out of the way. In general though, the band mixes thrash metal with heavy metal and pays homage to both styles. The album is generally fast, although several slow songs are also sandwiched there. The use of melody is never forgotten. The best element of the songs are the guitars and the weakest link is the vocals when they attempt to stretch the range and go higher pitched. It is good to hear a singer like Matt Williams who wants to try something higher and different, but he just cannot hit the notes. The drums are mere followers and take their cues from the guitarist's tempo and breaks. Incidentally, Hellhammer is probably a title most would associate with black metal which has little to do with Black Steel. The band is doing its part to break down stereotypes, let us guess.
Annihilate starts Hellhammer with a thrashing attack. The title track is not the album's best song. The screeching guitar work is reminiscent of Black Label Society. Grind To Metal is a more traditional heavy metal song and is not dissimilar to Judas Priest (Grinder?) on its later albums. Up Against The World is a slower song with fantastic refrain and alternately smooth and gritty guitars. No one would have been surprised if this were a Saxon song. Going Down is more traditional metal and took me back to the old American heavy metal heroes. Listening to the melody and the harmonic guitars made me feel the power of metal rising around me. The singer's limited range is an issue though. Relentless Force, also title of an earlier EP, is slow to start, but soon begins to rage. The guitars need to be louder in the mix. Williams does a good job singing, but the screams are muffled. Slaughterhouse reminded me of Mortal Sin (as did its title) with its Middle Eastern melody and thrashing power. The Holy Devil is influenced by Iron Maiden but is faster.
Black Steel is a waste of time if you are into Korn, Nine Inch Nails or Dimmu Borgir. Instead, the band is interested in recruiting fans of traditional metal forces. Saxon, Judas Priest, Flotsam & Jetsam and Mortal Sin are names that come back again and again while hitting on the Hellhammer. - Anna Tergel