Ranger, Live in London

Finnish maniacs take North London on a thrill ride

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There’s a certain romance, if you’re trying to recapture the spirit of 80s metal, in aligning yourself with the also-rans, the bands who provided much of the texture of the times but only made it as far as the footnotes.

Southampton retro-thrashers DESOLATOR [4], however, are clearly more in tune with the bands who never made it past the starting gate, wandering off in all directions, Monty Python-style, as soon as the gun goes off. There’s a certain Gumby charm to a band who often sound like all three members are playing different tracks, and their bewildered frontman is kind of engaging (“Some silly sausage forgot to bring the t-shirts,” looking at his hapless bassist), but ultimately their yelping, disorientated gallop would test the patience of a squat party.

Far more technically adept, but in many ways more depressing, SEVEN SISTERS [5] are too humbled by their love of NWOBHM, never doing more than tepidly tracing over the marks left by their heroes. This is a comforting cliché blanket, and if you can’t sing the words ‘Stand up and fight’ without looking down at your guitar then you’ve pretty much missed the point.

As much as the denim’n’patches scene can sometimes come across as mere homage and retreat, it’s also the incubator for heavy metal’s most essential, unfakeable feral spirit. In that regard, Finland’s RANGER [8] have rapidly become the scene’s standard-bearers, their slavering speed metal a conductor for unhinged, gleefully ghoulish forces, as if they’re manning a train-ride through a mineshaft, cackling at how the brakes have fallen off.

With a host of headbangers and fist-wavers at their disposal it’s like some kind of anarchic demon congress, and what’s clear is that their power isn’t just in rabid riff-splurge – it’s also in knowing how much to hold back. Frontman Dimi Pontiac is a commanding if knowingly cheeky presence as he unleashes taut face-rippers like Defcon 1 and Knights Of Darkness.

Ranger aren’t chasing some halcyon age; they’re an epicentre for a combined adrenaline/endorphin rush. When you’re rodeo-humping the moment, there is no compare./o:p

Jonathan Selzer

Having freelanced regularly for the Melody Maker and Kerrang!, and edited the extreme metal monthly, Terrorizer, for seven years, Jonathan is now the overseer of all the album and live reviews in Metal Hammer. Bemoans his obsolete superpower of being invisible to Routemaster bus conductors, finds men without sideburns slightly circumspect, and thinks songs that aren’t about Satan, swords or witches are a bit silly.