VELVET VIPER – NOTHING COMPARES TO METAL
LABEL: Massacre Records
RELEASE: July 21st, 2023
AUTHOR: Paul Hutchings
01. Nothing Compares To Metal
02. Invisible Danger
03. Urd Wardande Skula
04. Blood On The Moon
05. Speak Truth To Power
06. Sorcerer’s Apprentice
07. Heroic Hearts
08. Rise From The Fallen
09. The 4th Part
10. New World Child
11. Es kommt die Zeit
The Thrust of heavy metal, true metal, the anthems of generations, all big riffs, hair and loud amplifiers. It’s the stuff of fantasy, a different world of escapism – the trap door to a different reality. Welcome to VELVET VIPER, originally active from 1990-93 before splitting. Vocalist Jutta Weinhold then resurrected the band’s name with a new line-up in 2017. To say they have been proactive since then is an understatement, for “Nothing Compares To Metal” is their sixth full-length release.
I’m going to be frighteningly stereotypical here, for “Nothing Compares To Metal” is an album that screams German metal with every gloriously strained sinew. From the album title, which makes you wince, to the actual song writing, this is routine heavy metal that you’ll either love or hate. At times, it’s cringeworthy in the extreme. The title track opens the album and its average at best. It needs a bit of oomph, for it plods with a real 1980s feel, like you’ve left the handbrake on as you drive along.
I’m not a fan of anything that eulogises metal to this extent. Manowar, Doro, even Judas Priest can be so predictable, cliched and unoriginal. Just the lyrics can be enough to reach for the off button. Is it arrogance or a love of the art? I don’t have the answer. Maybe in mainland Europe or South America, where people ‘bleed metal’, but elsewhere? It’s a little over the top, dreadfully trite and quite embarrassing at times.
Once you are past the title track, the main question is whether things can improve. Weinhold’s vocals are reasonable, if a little flat at times. “Invisible Danger” brings more traditional style, the retrospective sound and gang chants leaving me less than enthused. Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t some decent songs on the album, it’s more about what is brought to the table in 2023. I’m far from a fan of modern metal, being steeped in the 1980s as my decade of development, but I do search for something a little fresher, contemporary that “Nothing Compares To Metal”. Perhaps, if you are still wearing a mullet haircut and bleached denims, this will be right up your street.
“Urd Wardande Skula” is better. Drawing on the album’s classical, poetic and mythical themes, this is a nod to Anselm Kiefer’s artwork “Urd, Werdandi, Skuld (The Norns)” and it has an epic feel, reminiscent in parts to the work of Heaven & Hell in majestic style. It’s a lengthy track at over seven-minutes in length, but it works well.
Elsewhere it’s a bit of a mixed bag. I found attention wandering as I listened, something that indicates that the album isn’t brilliant. That was certainly the case on “Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, which is one of the weakest tracks on the album. It’s the tempo that spoils it, the slow plod not helping, but the overall song is a struggle.
It’s not that “Nothing Compares To Metal” is a terrible record. Far from it. It’s just not one that grabs you by the throat, shakes you and demands your attention. Songs like “Heroic Hearts” and “Rise From The Fallen” are solid enough, but this really is heavy metal by numbers. “The 4th Part” is no doubt meant to be the band’s big number. However, it’s a ponderous, lumbering song that is flatter than a pancake under a steamroller. If I had to use one word, it would be boring.
Add to the mix that Weinhold’s vocals are at times rather hard to enjoy and it all adds up to an album that doesn’t really get me that excited. At over an hour in length, it’s probably three songs too long and that doesn’t help. Listening to this release became a chore and when that happens it’s time to cut the loses.
I may be a little too harsh on VELVET VIPER. The band are tight enough and the production is decent. It’s the songs that I really struggle with. Listen to “New World Child”, penultimate track on this release, and you’ll either get my view or think I’m completely wrong. For me, it’s everything I disliked here and an easy example of why I’m unlikely to ever play this release again. Sorry.