IC sure has been on a "classic metal" bender lately, eh? Well, no better way to put a big fat exclamation point at the end of this phase than with an astral excursion into the booger-sugar fueled galaxy of Wolverhampton, UK's own CLOVEN HOOF.
Rarely credited in casual discussion of the NWOBHM, Cloven Hoof were a strange amalgamation of Kiss-esque costumery (see above), party-rockin' moustache riffs, sci-fi/fantasy/occult imagery and lyricism, and good, old-fashioned, inspirational rock and roll. Originally comprised of members using the psuedonyms "Earth", "Air", "Fire", and "Water" (guess which is which), the band went about the standard 4/4 wannabe arena-rock so common amongst also-ran NWOBHM bands with a surprising amount of theatricality and flair, releasing three full-lengths, a live album, and one EP during the course of the 1980's and gaining considerable cult/collector status along the way.
The Hoof's career arc has been sort of a strange one. Their first "real" release, 1982's 4-song The Opening Ritual, is a solid, rocking chunk of curious metal effluvium, with 3 songs sporting lengthy keyboard/narration intros and a tasty prog-bar-band vibe while the fourth, "Back In The USA", is an earnest (and quite obvious) attempt at cashing in Stateside--almost as if Cloven Hoof couldn't decide whether they wanted to be Def Leppard or Rush. Either way, the EP's final track, "Starship Sentinel", is a keeper.
(Side note: How much would it suck to be "Air" and have to go around wearing those raveresque angel wings?)
The band's first full-length (self-titled and released in 1984) found the band losing a bit of momentum and leaning more toward the commercial "hard rock" that became the bane (and eventually, the death) of the NWOBHM movement, but it's still a pleasingly ass-kicking release, with focus more on boozing, broads, and Satan than the spacey unicorn-isms of their first release. You can definitely hear Cloven Hoof yearning to create their own Screaming For Vengeance on this album, and it's an altogether charming experience.
But hard times soon came, and their next album, a collection of live cuts titled Fighting Back, was an onslaught of poorly-recorded AM-radio drivel puncuated by moments of brilliance (see "Heavy Metal Men of Steel"), making it apparent that constant lineup changes, unrealized ambitions, and a decade notoriously unkind to heavy metal had taken its toll on this hard-working space-metal quartet. They enjoyed one last journey into glory with the one-two punch of their obviously thrash, hair, and coke-influenced 1988 and 1989 albums Dominator and A Sultan's Ransom (both oft-overlooked slabs of late-80's heavy metal awesomeness, although Ransom is the clear winner), but had dissolved into nothingness by the onset of the 90's.
There was, of course, the inevitable "reunion" in 2000, which led to a couple best-of and live releases which were, of course, profitable for the band but depressing to everyone else. They slogged through the new millenium with several more lineup changes and very little new material (their one "new" album of the decade is hardly worth mentioning), and the last anyone had heard of them (last year), original bassist/composer Lee "Air" Payne had fired the entire band, carrying on under the same name with no other musicians involved. Bummer.
But I digress. Here are all the good albums Cloven Hoof ever put out. Enjoy them irresponsibly.
(Side note: I found a downloadable version of the "Cloven Hoof Comic Book" RIGHT HERE. You should check it out if you're into that kind of stuff.)
THE OPENING RITUAL EP (1982)
CLOVEN HOOF (1984)
A SULTAN'S RANSOM (1989)
PRO TIP: If you dug Demon, you will enjoy the first two albums more. If you are more into stuff like the Transformers OST (1986 style), you will prefer the latter.