Redline’s 2012 album ‘Vice’ is rooted firmly in the old school.  On this release, the Brummie five piece band have not just settled for a little retro – they’ve chosen all out, old fashioned 80s metal as their core sound.  The first song rips from the speakers with attitude, powered by the kind of riffs that would make their fore fathers very proud.

Within ‘Battle Cry’s opening two lines, vocalist Kez Taylor delivers lyrics which mention both “Running with the devil” and “the reaper” as if no time has passed since the days of Sounds Magazine and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal; its chorus (“Time to do or die / Shout the battle cry!”) fits the mood well with its brazen cheesiness.  The heavy staccato riffs show no sign of abating over the course of three minutes and taking in a fierce lead guitar break en route, Redline sets their musical manifesto out for all to see.  By the track’s end, you’ll either find yourself going with Redline for the (leather clad, motorbikes and demons obsessed) ride, or you be moving swiftly along…

‘King of the Mountain’ follows suit with a similar twin guitar attack.  No surprises from a band called Redline, this tune is celebration of heavy horse-powered two-wheeled greatness and comes with hi-octane riffs to suit the subject matter.  A number adopted as the official theme for the Isle of Man TT Races in 2009, on this particular track, Kez offers huge vocal (with some equally huge screaming notes on occasion) and the rest of the band sounds nice and tight.  The only weak point here is the one line chorus; considering the band loves motorcycles so much, it’s a pity that repeating “King of the mountain” ad nauseum was the best they could manage.   A second ode to the motorbike and open road, ‘No Limits’ is far better: a pumping bass lays the foundations for a fist-clenched slab of metal which recalls classic tunes by Saxon and their ilk.  Unlike some early Saxon tunes, bassist Redvers manages more here than a pounding open E, but all the same, ‘No Limits’ doesn’t pretend to be flashy.  With squealing guitars, full throttle riffing and a much better chorus, this pure and simple approach typifies the kind of tunes that would have placed Redline at the forefront of the studs-and-leather dominated scene had they been doing this three decades earlier.

‘The Edge of Falling’ and ‘Some Kinda Mean’ are numbers on which the band branches out a little farther, opting for a slightly more melodic edge.  ‘On The Edge’ is particularly enjoyable with its mix of acoustic and electric guitars; the punchy mid paced rock is slightly reminiscent of early Dokken and shiny backing vocals lend more of an American feel.  At the heart of it all, though, the guitars reign supreme and an old-school lead guitar break tops things off nicely.  ‘Some Kinda Mean’ has a riff which isn’t too far removed from something Glenn Tipton would have penned for Judas Priest circa ’84 and as such has a hugely classic sound.  Taylor, meanwhile, takes each line in his stride – his big voice an equal match for the riffs.  As with ‘King of the Mountain’, a one line chorus lets the side down a little, but everything else here is more than solid.

Interestingly, ‘Vice’s weakest track is ‘Cold Silence’ – and it is possibly no coincidence that the potential missteps happen during Redline’s only attempt at lightening up.  This particular track is an overwrought power ballad, at first led by piano and strings (arranged by Slade’s Jim Lea).  It’s wonderfully orchestrated, but that doesn’t stop its first half sounding like a poor man’s equivalent to a Queensryche ballad.  During the second half, things rock up somewhat.  The combination of strings and a well played lead guitar improves things considerably, while drummer Mark Biddiscombe also puts in a rock-hard performance.

Let’s not beat about the bush here: ‘Vice’ is uncool.  Not uncool in such a way that could be considered cool, just uncool.  However, it cannot be denied that Redline are great musicians and in Kez Taylor the band possesses a powerful vocalist with some serious old-school chops.  If you don’t care about fashion and want a metal album that hits you in the kind of way those old vinyl LPs did back in ’81, then this record is definitely for you.

September 2012