I've been an obsessed hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.
Highways, "Texas Is Coming for You"
Stormspell Records, 2021
Genre: Traditional/Melodic Heavy Metal
8 Tracks / Run time: 33:42
Stormspell Records' 2021 release, the oddly titled Texas Is Coming for You from the heretofore-unknown act Highways, is an intriguing exercise in melodic '80s style hard rock/metal. The hype sheet that accompanied my digital promo copy from the label didn't provide much background on Highways, but after a bit of digging I learned that this is more than just a "band"—it's a unique collaboration of metallic talents that come from literally around the globe.
Highways began as the brain child of Lincoln, Nebraska-based metal musician and songwriter Joe Coleman, whose resume includes stints in such bands as Cobras and Gallows Majesty. Operating from the inspirational mantra that "metal has no borders," Coleman composed the eight tracks that comprise the Texas Is Coming for You album and passed them on to a quartet of his international musician friends—each from a different continent!—to perform and record the songs.
Highways' recording lineup consists of vocalist/rhythm guitarist Carlos Molina, who hails from Chile; lead guitarist Olev Andrievski, who calls the Ukraine home; drummer Vinay Ramakrishnan checks in from India; and Nigerian-based bassist Marvin Masok. Talk about "We Are the World," huh? Metal truly is the universal language!
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Stormspell's hype sheet for Texas Is Coming for You claims that Highways is "taking the NWOTHM (New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal) scene with a bang!" and compares them to Metal Church, Vicious Rumors, Lizzy Borden, Leatherwolf, and Dokken. I don't think they're quite as heavy as Metal Church or as thrashy as Vicious Rumors, but I can definitely agree with the Lizzy, Leatherwolf and Dokken comparisons and I'd also add some Steeler and early Lynch Mob to the mix. The point is, Highways is well-played, polished, melodic metal in the classic '80s vein, with just a touch of grit amongst the shredding guitars, soaring vocals and precise rhythm section.
"Arrow One" is a strong anthemic opener which leads into the satisfyingly heavy chunk of "Jeopardy," which should get the heads bobbing along. Next up is "Texas Is Coming for You," an all out banger with an irresistible chorus. It took me a few tracks before I finally got a bead on Carlos Molina's voice -- I knew he reminded me of somebody, but I couldn't place who. Finally it dawned on me that his strong, confident vocal delivery is very similar to the great Steve Grimmett from cult favorites Grim Reaper.
The barn-burning "From Inside" picks up the pace and stomps the pedal to the medal, with some seriously fiery guitar soloing throughout. Highways pulls back on the throttle just a bit on "The Road," which stomps along to a pleasantly bruising rhythm, and "Early Warning" sees the Highways gang reveling in their Powerslave-era Iron Maiden twin-guitar fantasies. The classy, majestic "Grains of Sand" and the four-on-the-floor "Phase III" close out the album on a high note with an equal mix of melody and crunch.
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Between the pandemic and the far flung locations of each band member, I think it's safe to assume that none of these guys were ever together in the same room (or hell, even in the same country) during the creation of Texas Is Coming for You. Therefore it's a testament to Joe Coleman's producing and arranging skills that the final album product is an impressively tight, cohesive piece of work that manages to sound like a legit "band," rather than just four random guys banging away on their parts in separate rooms, with thousands of miles between them. Kudos!
Highways is another killer find by the metal specialists at the tiny-but-true Stormspell Records label, and I hope Coleman and his crew will stay together to record more albums, because I would love to hear more from this project in the future.
For further information on Highways, you can hit them up on their official Facebook or Bandcamp pages, and copies of the Texas Is Coming for You CD can be ordered directly from Stormspell Records. Like many of Stormspell's releases, the CD pressing is a limited edition of 500 copies, so you'll need to act fast if you want to add one of these to your collection. It's worth it.
To paraphrase Judas Priest, head out to the Highways!
© 2021 Keith Abt