"Age of Steel"

By Colonel Angus

Cloven Hoof is one of those bands that I used to see a lot in Kerrang magazine in the early days.  When I finally got around to hearing them, I didn’t think they had anything special to offer.  At the time, I was really into another “Kerrang” band called Demon.  I thought their "Night of the Demon" record was awesome and I even liked their album "The Plague" which took things in a more progressive direction.  Even a few years later when I heard Cloven Hoof’s self-titled offering again, I still felt it was lacking.  I don’t think that is was necessary bad, it’s just that back in the early 80s, there was so much music coming out that I was inundated with a bunch of fresh new sounds that if it didn’t grab me by the end the first song, I was onto other bands.

Fast forward to 2020 and I’m tasked with reviewing the latest disk by this British heavy metal band.  Whatever my earlier thoughts on the band were, they have done a complete 180 degree turn.  While the "Age of Steel" may not possess the most innovative sound, it is a really solid album that captives the NWOBHM sound perfectly.  That sound is coming back in vogue again but there are not many bands that can do it this well.  Starting with opening track “Bathory” all the way to the title track ending, this release captures much of the fun and power of the NWOBHM movement.  That’s not to say that they consistently stick to one formula throughout.  The title track contains some twists and turns giving it a big of a proggy feel and “Ascension” throws in some thrashy moments.  “Touch of Rainbow” has a bit of power metal as well but the underlying sound is very much Iron Maiden.  “Alderley Edge” has a vocal performance very much in the Bruce Dicknson vein so much so that it has more than a passing resemblance to “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”.  The same goes for “Gods of War” and “Victim Of The Furies”. 

 Even though the similarities can’t be denied, I don’t feel that it is a case of copying the sound because let’s not forget, Cloven Hoof was around since 1979.  They may have gotten a later start with getting product out on the streets but they were one of the creators of that sound.  Lee Payne is the only original member who probably played the same clubs as Maiden so he definitely has NWOBHM street cred for carrying the banner for so long.  If you want to dismiss this disk as just another collection of track being released by a group trying to capitalize on the NWOBHM resurgence, you would be doing yourself a disservice.  I made the mistake of dismissing Cloven Hoof back in early 80s and now I’m looking forward to discovering their older catalogue.  "Age of Steel" is one album that should not be overlooked in 2020.