“World War II – Metal of Honor“ is the name of Steel Assassin's brand new studio album. As you might have already guessed, it is a concept album. Guitarist Kevin Curran put a lot of effort into researching the concept: “I did quite a bit of reading, and did the research on selected subjects. I've always had a strong interest in World War II, and have a good collection of books on the subject. Some of the books I read were 'Guadalcanal Diary' by Richard Tregaskis and 'Four Stars of Hell' by Laurence Critchell to name a couple.“ World War II is such a vast topic, it is no wonder Steel Assassin had to find their own approach to the subject. Kevin explains: “The angle is that we attempted to tell a few different stories and cover some of the key theaters of operation. It is so vast a subject that we couldn't possibly cover all of it. For example, we had a song called 'Exodus' about the Bataan death march, but decided that we would cover the Pacific Theater differently, with 'Guadalcanal'. We could have done three records on the subject.“
War and especially the second World War is also a subject which has been touched upon by a few other metal bands in the past. Iron Maiden wrote “The Trooper“, the whole concept of Tank is based on war-related topics and Lemmy Kilmister is a big collector of (German) war memorabilia. So Steel Assassin did not really enter unchartered waters here. Kevin Curran puts everything into perspective: “Iron Maiden, Priest and Thin Lizzy have been big influences for us in the past. Although we weren't thinking of specific songs like 'The Trooper', songs like that are part of our 'metal DNA' so to speak. 'Aces high' and 'Where Eagles dare' have always been favourites of mine. Motörhead has also always been influential and inspiring for me. I'm not a collector of memorabilia like Lemmy, but collecting books on the subject is one of my interests.“
It is a mere coincidence that German band Accept called their new album “Stalingrad“ (no joke!). The live show will include a German tank as a stage prop (no joke eiher – although it sounds a bit too Spinal Tap for me!). For bassist Phil Grasso this is a case of bad timing: “That will be interesting. Hopefully we'll get this album released before theirs so people won't think we're copying them. Oddly enough our band photo for the album was taken on a tank!“ And, staying with the Accept connection for a second, the subtitle of Steel Assassin's new album, “Metal of Honor“, was also an album title by US Metal band TT Quick. Phil explains: “I know it now, but we didn't at the time. Greg actually came up with the 'Metal of Honor' part. We were going to just call it 'World War II', but felt it needed a bit more. I didn't know about the TT Quick album until I saw the singer interviewed on 'That Metal Show' in America after he was named Accept's new singer. By that time we already had settled on the name for our album. And since the 'World War II' was part of the title it wasn't exactly the same. Plus I don't believe the TT Quick album's songs were military based, were they?“ No, they weren't!
Before “World War II – Metal of Honor“ Steel Assassin released a 7" single on High Roller Records. The title track “CA-35“ was supposed to be on the new album but the band decided otherwise. Phil Grasso: “That's correct. Both songs on the single are 'World War II' based songs that originally we were going to put on the new record. But because we had so many other songs and they wouldn't have all fit on a single album format, we decided to keep them off the album. Now we know that more songs could have fit because vinyl has advanced to more than 44 minutes maximum per album, although I'm told that audio quality is better when it's more that length, but I really don't know too much about it. Obviously there's not that limitation with CDs. If we were only releasing the album as a CD, then these songs would have been included as well. 'War of the Eight Saints' you may recall was 65 minutes in length, but at the time there was no consideration for the length being too much to fit on vinyl because we didn't even know about the vinyl resurgence. 'W.O.T.E.S.', as we call it, did eventually get released on vinyl, but it had to be released as double vinyl.“
Speaking of “War of the Eight Saints“, where are the main differences between Steel Assassin's last album and “World War II – Metal of Honor“? Guitarist Mike Mooney knows: “I guess musically there is not much of a change of direction in comparison to say 'War of the Eight Saints', or is there? Well, from our perspective, there has never been any conscious shift in direction or sound, but I think if you look objectively from our earliest recordings, all the way to 'Saints' and now to 'Metal of Honor', there definitely is a distinct evolution of sound. Personally, I think that with this record there is a new dynamic at work, I happen to think it's our most modern sounding body of work to date, yet it retains a gritty, pale, gun-metal sound that is indicative of the era we are trying to capture.“
It seems as if Steel Assassin has developed into something like a "theme" band over the years, with every new album dedicated to a new theme. Mike Mooney agrees: “Again, this is not something we've done on purpose, however, in the last few years, Kevin has emerged as the sole lyric writer for the band - much to our delight, by the way - and in doing so, he brings a love for history and historical events. So when he begins to look at an idea, the lyrics just start pouring out of him, so from a band standpoint, we look at it as a perfect opportunity for song writing. For instance, I penned the music to 'God save London', but this was only after reading Kev's lyrics for that song. It inspired me to think a certain way and envision a certain mood for the song. If all this makes us a theme band, then so be it because there is a wealth of inspiration out there to draw upon.“
The selection of Rush's "Red Sector A" as a cover tune on “World War II – Metal of Honor“ might be viewed as an unexpected choice but for Mike Mooney it was not a question at all: “I actually made a demo of the song about five years ago basically for my own purposes. I've always loved the way Geddy sings that song, there's a hopelessness and longing in his voice that is brilliant, but there's also a quality of urgency that I thought would translate well to metal, so I basically changed up the tempos and really kept everything else the same. I call Rush my 'desert island' band, meaning if I were ever stranded on desert island and could only listen to one artist, it would be Rush. Kevin and I are both huge fans all the way back to their earliest days. Their writing in a lot of ways is very metal, but they are so much more diverse than just that. 'Red Sector A' also ties in rather neatly with the military concept of our record. We were at my house combing through some demos for the new record, when I came across my old version of it, and all at once it struck me, this would be an awesome addition to the World War II theme. I began the campaign right then to have this song on the album, Kevin instantly agreed and the rest would follow. Lyrically and musically it's a perfect compliment to this record and the whole band is really excited about it.“