Cloven Hoof - Who Mourns for the Morning Star

Cloven Hoof Who Mourns for the Morning Star cover
Cloven Hoof
Who Mourns for the Morning Star
High Roller Records
2017
6.5
Cloven Hoof almost managed to make a lasting impressing in the NWOBHM, certainly blessed with the flair to write great songs – but cursed with almost never having the right singer. The dismissal of their most prominent vocalist Russ North, under mysterious circumstances to say the least, led to an album with some poseur “reality TV” guy, who had been also performing as guitarist, which was by far one of the most disappointing offering by the band along with the “Throne of Damnation” aborted album – that ended up being more like an EP after all?!
 
Apparently internal strife led to Lee Payne parting ways with a couple of former members including the aforementioned hapless vocalist/guitarist Joseph and he brought in 2 Americans to replace them, George Call (on lead vocals) and Danny White (on drums) both ex-Aska. Call does a semi convincing bad Halford meets semi-descent Barlow and would have probably been a much better fit for Iced Earth than Stu Block… but still… he’s not all bad and is a better fit, but somehow, I suppose I’ve associated Hoof with the vocals of North alone. Thankfully, all the modern influences that Joseph brought to the band have been dismissed and the result is an album a lot closer to the band’s “standards” but flirting a bit more with a style that’s more American than British, although at times – the line is blurred greatly…
 
“Star Rider” is a nice Priest-esque number that makes me wonder how cool North would have delivered...
 
While “Song of Orpheus” has a neat chorus, but probably Call over-singing most of it…
 
“I Talk to the Dead” is doomier and nastier, which fits it’s themes about “Necromancy” and at times I thought I was listening to Cloven Hoof and at times to Iced Earth, which I’m not even sure, I liked wholly or not…
 
“Neon Angels” is a bad rock n roll number that’s pretty passable… I also started considering on this track that I didn’t much like the mix, where Call’s voice was overtly loud and out and above the mix, with only guitars occasionally making a reasonable noise… all in all to dry and treble, sounding too brittle despite achieving relative clarity.
 
“Morning Star” begins with a quiet soliloquy… basically the devil introducing “himself” as the morning star, only to break in a lamenting section to close to Halford’s “Silent Scream” for comfort, straight into a too Maidenesque break; it’s a weird pastiche that’s ambitious, but I think Call is unable to “sell”… it tries to be an “epic” but, it’s a bit misguided, I’m afraid. Not terrible, but quite derivative and lacking focus.
 
“Time to Burn” pushes the pedal to the metal, but Call lacks the power to sing it, as high as he should with the kind of grit he employs and the “falsetto” his uses sounds marginal… too bad, because it could be a fairly enjoyable composition. Call can be pretty good, but consistent delivery doesn’t seem to be his strongest suit.
 
“Mindmaster” has a rather modern riff that guides it that’s not entirely bad, but lacks substance… there’s a neat enough solo in there too, but overall it’s doesn’t manage to not disappoint.
 
“Go Tell the Spartan’s” uses another cliché – Greek mythology and while it tries to incorporate a bit of a folk touch in its riffs – fails to make a point, since again Call’s half broken falsetto is plainly bad despite his best intentions, which is a pity since the chorus sounds like a potential dynamite; if it were sung by a more powerful singer, full voice and here, I’d exclude North, but wish someone like The Tyrant had sung this…
 
And while at it, why not utilize the Scottish heritage too? Another nice cliché heroic subject matter… “Bannockburn” has a very measured and quiet semi acoustic intro – that’s in fact reminiscent of Jag Panzer and mid-era epic Iced Earth… but once again Call’s falsetto sounds more like King Diamond than Barlow and I mean that not as a compliment, as his voice is about to crack… again a pity, since the song shows some promise…
 
Good overall attempt, marred – by a willing – but not good enough vocalist, who attempts to sound great but falls a bit short… in my mind, there can be only one.