Category VI – War Is Hell

Rating: 3.5/5
Released: 2017
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Band Line up

Geoff Waye – Guitars1CategoryVI-WarIsHell-cover2
Amanda Gosse – Vocals
Keith Jackman – Bass
John Angelopoulos – Drums

Album Track Listing
  1. Strike Of The Axe
  2. The Traveller/The Dark Warrior
  3. Mirror
  4. Full Metal Jacket
  5. Crossing The Avalon
  6. Arise
  7. Out Of Time
  8. War Is Hell

Power Metal is often a strange beast to get your head around, with many bands mired in excessively po-faced fantasy imagery, and either disappear up their own arses or bury themselves in cheddar. They are also often criminally lacking in self-awareness. Thankfully Canadian crew Category VI do not fall into that term, category (sorry). They flirt with it but never hurtle headlong in the Stinking Bishop souffle. In fact, “War Is Hell” – their second album is good heavy stuff!

The album opens with “Strike Of The Axe”, and I was immediately impressed with the crunching thrashy approach. The vocals are just what you would expect – wailing, warbling opera fuelled exclamations of ecstasy. Surprisingly although the song tops six minutes it whizzes by faster than a Wookiee chasing an ice cream van. Next up is “The Traveller/The Dark Warrior” which is chunky and brash, but strays a little too far lyrically into Manowar territory.

Things motor along with “Mirror” – a relentless NWOBHM style blast, and “Full Metal Jacket” which blitzes through like a hurricane. The band are at their best when they are at their heaviest, as evidenced her by “Crossing The Avalon” which crunches like a mace to the face and features a refrain so anthemic that you have no choice but to caterwaul along! “Arise” boasts another impressive set of riffs, that cause your hand to gain independence from the rest of your body and raise the horns of their own volition. The album’s only real disappointment is “Out Of Time” which feels flat when compared to the aural tidal wave of rest of the record.

The album-closing title track is ethereal at first but then explodes in a punchy and slightly gnarly slab of Heavy Metal euphoria, replete with Maiden-esque gallop, they appear to be going for the classic Steve Harris epic and almost pull it off.

It is certainly true to say that Category VI are not as cheesy as some of the bands who call themselves Power Metal, and that is certainly to their benefit. The vocal style gets a little tiresome over the course of the album’s eight tracks, but the band, with their sound rooted firmly in the early 80s, play with real charisma.

Review by Owen Thompson