Cloven Hoof - Heathen Cross artwork

Cloven Hoof – Heathen Cross (Album Review)

Cloven Hoof 2024

Many bands emerged during the late ’70s into the early ’80s from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement. Some made big names for themselves, while others carved out their own little niche. Now over four decades later, many are still going strong, while others have been defunct for years. However, there are some whose stories are split into two, like Cloven Hoof.

Initially coming together in 1979, Cloven Hoof were one of the earliest arrivals to the scene, and with them they brought an energetic sound on albums such as their 1984 self-titled release, 1988’s Dominator, as wells as on 1989’s A Sultan’s Ransom. If you happen to miss them, they are all releases worth revisiting, but in case you also were not aware, Cloven Hoof was all but dissolved by 1990. However, a new era of the band re-emerged over a decade later when co-founding Bassist Lee Payne assembled a new lineup. Granted this lineup was absent any other original members, it should be noted the resurrection of Cloven Hoof did have elder band members such as Guitarist Andy Wood return for a stint in 2004, Vocalist Russ North join up again on two separate occasions, and Drummer Jon Brown also popping up again between 2007 and 2010. So, while the band might look vastly different than some may remember, amidst the twenty-three-year anniversary since their reunion, it is safe to say that Payne has successfully kept the original spirit of Cloven Hoof alive. In fact, since 2020 alone they have been extremely active; first releasing The Age of Steel in 2020, before Time Assassin in 2022, leading up to the forthcoming release of Heathen Cross on May 31, 2024 through High Roller Records.

What will be Cloven Hoof’s 9th overall studio album, Heathen Cross features a cast of players led by Payne, along with Ash Baker on drums, plus Guitarists Chris Coss and Luke Hatton. Joining them is now full-time Keyboardist Chris Dando, plus Harry Conklin taking over on vocals in place of George Call. Looking at the addition of Conklin a bit more, dedicated Metal fans will recognize his name as the powerhouse voice of Jag Panzer.  A real game changer in many respects, Conklin adds an entirely new dynamic to Cloven Hoof that makes Heathen Cross stand out boldly.

Putting together 10 songs in total for Heathen Cross, Cloven Hoof captures a new energy that will immediately grab your attention. Furthermore, the album cover art is absolutely stellar and reminiscent of a classic piece of work that may have been featured on older releases from bands… opposed to more modern digitally created imagery. Looking back at their most recent history, 2017’s Who Mourns for the Morning Star?, followed by the aforementioned 2020 and 2022 albums, all of them had something to offer. These albums were melodic, true to the tradition of Heavy Metal, but in truth, Heathen Cross feels like it takes everything to the next level. From the start you are cast-off into a different dimension as a gothic keyboard led instrumental called “Benediction” sets a mood. This mood is immediately jolted into hyper mode with Heavy Metal of the highest order as heard on “Redeemer,” and “Do What Thou Wilt.” Multi-dimensional, these tracks feature blistering riffs, subtle textures in the backdrop, and absolutely outstanding vocals from Conklin.

From here, many more highlights dress the track list, including “Darkest Before The Dawn,” “Vendetta,” “Frost and Fire,” and the darkly demonic “The Summoning.” Of course, much more transpires in-between this, such as the motivating single “Last Man Standing,” among others, making Heathen Cross a highly engaging dose of traditional Heavy Metal.

Overall, Cloven Hoof have successfully reinvented themselves time and time again through the second chapter of their journey. This considered, let us hope the pairing with Harry Conklin goes on much longer… because this conjuring of the band is something special. A must listen for those who love straight up, classic Heavy Metal, Cryptic Rock gives Heathen Cross 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Cloven Hoof - Heathen Cross artwork
Cloven Hoof – Heathen Cross / High Roller Records (2024)

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