Until about a month ago, I thought I knew of practically every band that came from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (or NWOBHM for short). But as Spotify shuffled some heavy metal, a new band I'd never heard of came on: Tygers of Pan Tang. After loving the song in question ('Only the Brave', from their self-titled 2016 album) and learning that a new release was imminent, I decided to do some research. It turned out that these guys weren't new at all, but veterans, with the original line-up of the band forming in Whitley Bay in 1978. I stand corrected then.
But do they still have it? A lot of veterans who release albums these days do it in rather a half-hearted way.
Well, not these guys. Ritual, their latest offering, is a power chord party of thunderous riffs, soaring vocals and the pure energy of a band half their age. Sure, the music is about at 1980s as it gets - but it's delivered with passion and fire.
The album is a lesson in classic metal, with everything that comes with it put on show; speedier songs ('Raise Some Hell', 'Damn You!', 'Art of Noise'), slower and more delicate songs ('Words Cut Like Knives'), and even the odd commercial-friendly track ('Destiny').
'Worlds Apart' is a barnstorming opener in which you're immediately thrust back forty years, but who cares when it can still make you grip an invisible microphone and pretend like it's you singing? It's perfectly executed and sets up the album brilliantly.
'Spoils of War' is also a particular highlight. It's a killer song, with fantastic guitar work, powerful drums and a slightly fresher song structure compared to what comes before it. Along with 'Destiny', it's single material. What follows, 'White Lines' (which is a single), has a chorus absolutely made for festivals; you can hear the crowd's call-and-response even as you're listening to this studio recording. 'White Lines' is the sixth track of the album and my notes read "by this point of the album I'm smiling like a little kid". That tells you everything you need to know about how this album makes you feel. It's kicks ass all the way through, and 'Art of Noise' excellently lives up to its title.
'Sail On', the final track, finishes the album nicely, though it could have been slightly grander, considering it is the album's closer. Not that it isn't a good song - just not quite on the level it could have been. Overall though, there's very little to complain about and I have no desire to nitpick. It's an exquisite album and it's reminded me why I love heavy metal, and music in general, so much. How this band have slipped through my metal, my NWOBHM radar for about ten years now, I don't know. They still sound hungry, still sound passionate, and they still sound creative. It's a fast, heavy and unashamedly powerful record with quality songs all the way through. The style of the music may have aged, but sometimes the old-school can sound oddly fresh nowadays, as we get bombarded with the same artists and formulas day in, day out. It's rooted in the 1980s, but it's something different for a 2019 release. And it's bloody good, too.