Updated: Oct 11
The year of our lord 2020 marks fifty years since the proper beginning of the genre we now know as heavy metal. As much as I love virtually every subgenre that has surfaced since that infamous devil’s tritone rang out across record players the world over, you cannot beat the classic formula. The classics can seldom be beat, and the freaks and clowns behind Freaks and Clowns share that sentiment in spade. Formed in a meeting over drinks between drummer Johan Lindstedt (Astral Doors) and singer Chrille Wahlgren, the band put out a powerful self-titled debut last year, flanked by two of Lindstedt’s former Astral Doors bandmates.
The name of the game is straightforward, no frills heavy metal, and on the band’s second full-length Justice Elite, they deliver as much. Evoking the memory of bands such as Judas Priest and King Diamond, paying homage to the progenitors of heavy music, the eleven tracks here are anthemic, fist-pumping traditional metal by students of the game.
Within the first few seconds of the opening and title track, the blueprint for the band’s modus operandi is laid out. They emulate the aforementioned Judas Priest and King Diamond, capturing that classic Eighties Euro metal sound and giving it a modern polish. The leads are screaming and soaring above the mix, whether they be during the chorus, the dizzying dual guitar harmonies during the instrumental break, or the outro solo.
While this feeling is fun, it is pervasive, palpable from moment one to moment done. The key of the songs rarely changes, if it ever does, though some of the solos are fun, namely the descending ones on “Man with the Power” and the intro solo of “Am I The One or the Victim.” By the third track, it felt like the songs weren’t really ending, but melting together into a critical mass. When it’s done well, it’s great, sure, but a little bit of variety is definitely something that could be the key to opening up new doors for these guys, astral or otherwise.
Is there anything groundbreaking here? To answer a question with a question, does there need to be? Sometimes, it’s absolutely fine to just cut through the bullshit and go back to basics, and Justice Elite is the knife in this analogy. It’s a fun listen with plenty of epic metal moments that sound like they came from the Eighties rather than today, but given how much of a dumpster fire things have been, is that such a bad thing?
Justice Elite is out on October 16th via Metalville Records. For more information, check out the band’s official website.