We are only a few months into the 2019 calendar year, but I am already set to declare the heavy metal anthem of the year: "Fuck Off and Die". The song's the opening serve from POUNDER's debut full-length album, "Uncivilized", and is a fist-pumping piece of heavy metal triumph. The track launches with a furious blast of NWOBHM speed and pummeling drums from session drummer Gus Rios. Vocalist/guitarist Matt Harvey (EXHUMED) leads the charge with a vocal performance that serves as a rallying cry to, "Look those bastards dead in the eye / And say fuck off and die", in a display of classic heavy metal glory. A brief melodic interlude kicks in, followed by lead guitarist Tom Draper giving a master class in guitar shred and displaying the skills that scored him the CARCASS touring guitarist gig. The song is an instantly catchy shout-along anthem, and even if the rest of the album—the follow-up to the band's 2018 EP "Faster Than Fire"—was complete trash, would alone be enough to earn a 7/10 rating for this record.
Luckily for listeners lured in by "Fuck Off and Die", there are plenty of other catchy traditional metal tracks to justify sticking with the rest of "Uncivilized". Band leader Matt Harvey has spent the last two decades leading EXHUMED's bloody brand of death/grind mayhem. That band fulfills the prerequisite brutality quotient, but its hidden weapon is that the riffs are secretly catchy and infectious. Harvey, alongside the aforementioned Rios and Draper and producer/bassist Alejandro Corredor, has called on his experience to help craft a collection of songs that are overloaded with moments that call for fist-pumping and shouting along with the choruses.
Much as with the original classics of the 1980's, the modern traditional-metal movement can live and die on the vocals. We've all heard newer singers that tried to hit the registers mastered by Rob Halford and Bruce Dickinson and failed miserably. The vocal adjustment made by Harvey, who normally delivers death barks with his main project, is a wise choice. Instead of attempting to hit the high notes and failing, he takes his vocal cues from Udo Dirkschneider (ex-ACCEPT). Grounding his vocals with a similar gruff rasp, Harvey keeps the metallic edge sharpened on the songs that have been crafted for POUNDER.
The triumphant anthems keep coming after "Fuck Off and Die". The title track is a galloping metal assault with Draper and Harvey's guitar harmonies hitting strong and hard. "We Want the Night" is perhaps the purest blast of NWOBHM-worship, with Harvey evoking vocal patterns similar to DIAMOND HEAD's Sean Harris on that seminal band's classic track, "Helpless". Album closer, "The Evil One", wraps everything up with another aggressive burst of mosh-pit inducement.
POUNDER stays true to the spirit of '80s metal anthems not just with fast rippers. Many of our favorite records from that era also have stabs at sensitive power ballads. Some of them worked, but many of them did not. After three opening tracks of fast-paced thrashers, the group attempts to replicate the more overtly cheesy moments of heavy metal's past with "Long Time No Love". Amplified acoustic guitar strings open the track, followed by Harvey's raspy shouts about love that he left behind and Draper bringing it all home with a shredding solo ripped from the "November Rain" playbook. This track, along with "Answer the Call", add to the throwback metal experience even more, though your enjoyment of these songs will vary according to your appreciation for those power ballads of yesteryear.
POUNDER brings a fun collection of '80s-inspired metal that is bolstered by the years of songwriting experience that Matt Harvey brings to the table. It's an album that raises the bar for newer acts looking to mine the same territory for inspiration.