Scottish classic metallers finally get that live sound on record

For a band that won critical accolades for live performance since 2004, 15 Times Dead have only now managed to bring out their first full release. But all those years of graft on the live circuit have paid off. Metasultra has a well-developed and mature sound. That's not to say that it's not pure headbanging bliss at times.

The opening bars won't fill you with hope that it's totally unique, and you prepare for heads-down blunt force trauma. But although they often keep to a classic formula of power chords and basic techniques, beyond the obvious comparisons to Metallica at al, there's more to 15TD than meets the eye. It's fairer to compare them to bands like Saxon or Uriah Heep - a solid metal grounding but unafraid to move away from the four-chord chug when the mood takes them. Never mind the fans labelling it 'Girth metal'; it's more like 'depth metal'. It actually has personality!

As easy as it is to be cynical about Bullethead's intro, truth be told it builds into a damn catchy little riff. 15TD have developed a great vocal interplay between gravelly rasp and cleaner vocals. Sleep wouldn't sound out of place on an Alice Cooper record. It has that half-spoken, growled quality and a fantastic edge. It turns into a mini-epic from mock lullaby to relentless pummelling riffage with the flick of a plectrum. The comparison comes back to haunt them on tracks like Driven by Hate where the similarity to what Cooper is doing these days is striking. Not necessarily a bad thing.

15TD have the knack of creating fantastic dynamics without losing sheer power. Credit for that must go to the solid bass and drum work that frees the guitar for the pared-back solos. Resisting the kitchen-sink approach to the guitar work lifts Metasultra from sounding amateur to adding that crucial polish. They take a fearless approach to removing all unnecessary fretboard-fussing to keep it tight. Deception hits that balance of purity and freedom perfectly.

There are some rough edges, but that's the good thing. Rape of a Nation is dirtier, grittier and downright heavy-as-hell. It's not mindless screaming; they have a message, and it's one close to their Scottish hearts. Down is an example of their more basic approach, making a good comparison with the beginning of the album.

There are a few down sides. It rest uneasily in the void occupied by good live bands who aren't yet comfortable with their recorded sound. The vocals evoke their live sound, in contrast to the production on the music. But on the plus side, they have a clean yet still powerful sound. Most of the songs seem to be stuck in live-performance mode and go on for a while and need to be chopped back for a record. Fortunately they rescue it from a potential mire of thoughtless pounding with their more progressive influences.

Recommended for fans of classic metal.