New Battlesnake album The Rise And Demise Of The Motorsteeple is proof that you can be a) heavy metal, b) silly as hell and c) really quite good

Battlesnake's mix of Aussie daftness and big, memorable tunes is a winner

(Image: © Tom Wilkinson)

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A sense of humour can be a dangerous thing in metal. Take yourself too seriously and you invite ridicule, but presenting as too wacky can condemn a band forever to the cringe realms of novelty kitsch, even ones with half-decent riffs (hello, Goblin Cock). Australian bands often have more leeway than most in this regard, tucked away in sunny isolation with their breezy, “no wuckers” attitude and OTT-bonkers metal legacy. Demanding attention with their homoerotic pagan vestments and funny face-pulling antics, Battlesnake owe as much to Tenacious D as to Dio, but they keep our attention with wild, expressive vocals; catchy riffing; twin-axe exuberance and storytelling fervour.

Despite their aesthetic’s comedy value, Battlesnake’s music is an accessible display of arty eccentricity and fearless conviction, more the perky offspring of Turbonegro and Slough Feg than a Nanowar Of Steel- style piss-about. It’s more party-hardened and more experimental than most New Wave Of Trad HM; both qualities are best exemplified by closer Pterodactyl Firehawk, pushing us into dinosaur rave metal territory, hastily snapping off just as it starts to get too ridiculous. 70s Judas Priest is a palpable presence throughout (incorporating their early Queen influence), while Alpha & Omega switches between Mellotron-dappled folk balladry and punchy, mystical hard rock, flying the Zeppelin over the Rainbow with delicate panache.

Crucially, the songs crackle with Battlesnake’s own mad energy; Pangea Breaker and I Speak Tongues are dead certs for rock radio rotation. The sound is just right, too – loud and bright but with a jam-room spontaneity and vintage fizz. With their second album, this ‘madcap’ Sydney septet have lovingly assembled a crate-digger Frankenstein’s monster via retro time-scoop, patched into being with bits and pieces harvested from an impeccably cool grandad’s record collection.

The Rise And Demise Of The Motorsteeple is out this Friday, June 21

Chris Chantler

Chris has been writing about heavy metal since 2000, specialising in true/cult/epic/power/trad/NWOBHM and doom metal at now-defunct extreme music magazine Terrorizer. Since joining the Metal Hammer famileh in 2010 he developed a parallel career in kids' TV, winning a Writer's Guild of Great Britain Award for BBC1 series Little Howard's Big Question as well as writing episodes of Danger Mouse, Horrible Histories, Dennis & Gnasher Unleashed and The Furchester Hotel. His hobbies include drumming (slowly), exploring ancient woodland and watching ancient sitcoms.