Sandstorm's Time to Strike is a reminder that '80s metal hasn't vanished

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      Time to Strike

      Thanks largely to the jokers in Steel Panther, it’s hard to tell when the metal-minded musicians of today are being sincere when faithfully re-creating the sound that made the ’80s famous.

      Sometimes what seems to start out as a clever in-joke (3 Inches of Blood comes to mind) morphs into a powerfully authentic riff on the real thing. Sometimes what seems like a winking piss-take (hello, Zimmers Hole) is no doubt meant to be a loving tribute.

      Sandstorm does its best to muddy the waters with the Bandcamp mission statement that the group is inspired by both “ ’80s underground Swedish metal.…& Rob Halfords Instagram account” (which the band thoughtfully links to just in case there are folks out there truly stuck in the pre-Internet era of spandex tights and ozone-destroying hairspray abuse).

      I’m giving the trio the benefit of the doubt, as Time to Strike does an inarguably credible job of re-creating an era that came to a sudden end when grunge detonated in 1991—right down to the decidedly analogue-sounding approach to recording.

      Clocking in at over six minutes, the galloping “Witchman, Sorcerer of Satan” is every bit as epic as its title suggests, right down to the almost operatically delivered, nuts-in-a-vise final lines, “Moment of silence/Time to die”.

      “Denizen of Hell” starts out with a funeral organ and a spoken-word bit worthy of Baphomet and then hops in the ’80s Camaro for a clinic in chugging monster riffage.

      Thanks to their devotion to the power of Marshall stacks and their reliance on a bruising thunder-boogie back end, one might legitimately believe that Sandstorm (singer-guitarist Stevie “Broke” Whiteless, bassist-singer Reptile Anderson, and drummer P.J. “The Butcher” La Griffe) come from a land where Nordic churches burn brightly all night and Rob Halford still has hair. Either that, or Surrey during the Dark Ages. And, yes, that’s a compliment.