Gallop To The Hills

Uch Alder is the new album from German thrashers Arctic Winter and its chock full of leather n' denim clad heavy metal. The band come off as much practiced fans and despite the rage they sometimes conjure up the tone of Uch Alder is usually the kind of exuberance found on classics like Killers and Kill 'Em All. As they say themselves, "it's 'just' metal, but metal is what we live for and what we live." - can't say fairer than that assessment.

Opening track Defcon 5 gallops along rightly continually making that oft made error: mistaking the severity of Defcon 5 for Defcon 1. Very metal, very duh. There's some old-school basslines from Upeh Winter on Struggle to Live that rips Number of the Beast for a frantic finale. Fireball is a trad thrash tale of kamikaze pilots dosed on the blood of war and a style Arctic Winter seem most comfortable in. They try some Euro epica on I Dream Infrared with acoustic embellishment and female melodic vocals from Rubina Amaranth and it's not a disaster. All this fist pumping song-writing is interwoven with some wonderful lead guitar from John Dee who (mostly) knows where to shred and where to serve the song.

Although they've been around since 1989 in various guises, Arctic Winter aren't entirely slavish in their appreciation of the sounds of NWOBHM and Bay Area thrash. There's a variety of metal vocal stylings on Uch Alder from Mic Winter: clean in most places but a death metal growl and gang vocals appear on the beginning grind of Winterstorm, an evil gurgle bubbles up on Dark Side of the World, a sort demented King Diamond squeal for No Time To Die and the aforementioned contribution from Amaranth. However, there's none of the du-jour sludgy doom or djent to be found on this battle jacket patchwork of a record that also wisely steers clear of 'kvlt' purity.

Ultimately, Uch Alder is an irony-free (only two of the band take the surname Winter, rhythm guitarist is called Iron Maddin etc.), technically proficient romp through the classic poses of heavy metal and is none the worst for it. That is if you like that kind of thing and to Arctic Winter's mind you'd be 'maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad!!!' not to.