Generally, whilst writing a review, I immerse myself in a band's back catalog. In the case of Screamer's four-album discography, that particular exercise feels moot: I already know what color-by-numbers heavy metal sounds like. While that may come off as pretty disparaging--and it is, to a minor degree, because Highway Of Heroes is less than inventive--this consistency in aesthetic ain't bad. Not by a long shot. This haggard scribe can get down with some blatant worship of convention, and in this regard, Screamer are unmatched in their old school heavy metal spirituality. While it did, admittedly, take a few listens to sink in, I'm confident in stating that Highway Of Heroes is one of the year's best entries in NWOBHM and affiliated fun-lovin' categories.
In a nutshell? You're looking at a hefty confluence of genre bigwigs. British Steel-era Priest meets Di'Anno-era Maiden meets Thin Lizzy meets Saxon meets Hammerfall meets Enforcer meets Ram meets…need I go on? You get it. Screamer taps the heart and soul of wholesome heavy metal, sounding like any and all examples you can dredge from the leatherclad 80's. The majority of the tracks herein fall into the category of “high-octane rocker,” with predictable verse-chorus-verse structure and melodic hooks a’plenty leading the charge. Screamer don’t really have an epic flair, per se, and in this sense they play to their strengths: rather than falling into the trap of ballads and Maiden-esque narratives, this album dishes up one radio-ready single after another. And, while some tracks do fade into obscurity fairly quickly (see the overtly campy "Shadow Hunter" and the drawn out "Caught In Lies"), the formula works the same damn way it's worked for the better part of four decades. The riffs are tasty, the leads are high-flying, the hooks are jubilant, the drums have a delightful little bounce, and the bass is just loose n' groovy enough to lend the affair a lil' machismo and swagger.
In 34 minutes and 10 tracks, Screamer efficiently throw down a satisfying (if consistently cliche) platter. While the songwriting and sonic elements lack ingenuity with a dogged persistence, I'm left pretty damn satisfied nonetheless. Of particular note are Side B standouts "Highway of Heroes" and "Out of the Dark," which feature the rare breed of earwormy choruses that end up running rampantly through one's head, uninvited, at 3am. On that note, I'd wager the title track has become, in recent weeks, the most-played song of the year for this particular villager. Its...its just so damn good. Opener "Ride On" is another standout, featuring an aggressive Halford-sized bite alongside a pummeling momentum.
With their latest, (and likely with their previous efforts, which I am now interested in perusing) Screamer have hit upon a universal truth, of sorts: no matter the era of origin, this is the kind of triumphant music that makes you want to 1. drive fast, 2. turn the volume up, 3. and drive even faster. This is fun heavy metal, plain 'n' simple. While we metalheads could simply turn to the classics for this kind of instant gratification, I'm glad Screamer offers a fresh-yet-familiar alternative. Highway of Heroes comes highly recommended.
Screamer - Highway of Heroes was released OCt. 11th, 2019 from The Sign Records.