An outsider would peer into the ridiculous world of 3 Inches of Blood — which is inhabited by orcs and advancing scimitar-wielding hordes — and giggle. But 3IoB's fight-and-persevere presentation makes fantastical and allegorical the banality of holding together a metal band through 10-plus years of marauding small clubs around North America in a van.
Their latest is the first to include none of the original members, with aptly named Cam Pipes moving to lead vocals upon the departure of screamer Jamie Hooper. None of this internal shuffling has any real effect on the air coming out of your speakers: this is high-quality-metal product, with great riffs and tunes that bore their amusing titles into your forehead like railroad spikes and rush to overdrive on every track, always threatening to ask, "Are we joking?" Pipes's glottal assault is constantly at the breaking point, a strangled-chicken vibe that, granted, can fatigue after a while — but who cares when the results are this awesome?
There are odes to battles and brotherhood ("Battles and Brotherhood"); there's a paean to either a ninja or farting ("Silent Killer"), and an exhortation to "Rock in Hell" (a command, not an observation). It's all powered by the pulse of galloping twin guitars that has always been 3IoB's calling card — a sound halfway between early Metallica and . . . the theme to Buffy.