Cloven Hoof, the name itself should give you an indication of the type of music they play. Heavy, heavy metal, with a punch. Cloven Hoof were founded in Wolverhampton in 1979, and were part of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. They helped shape and revitalise metal, and were a big part of my own musical experience growing up. Their latest album, ‘Who Mourns For The Morning Star’ is an absolutely classic album, and a review of that album features here, it is a fantastic album and I recommend that you go and buy it as soon as you can! I sat down with founder and bassist, Lee Payne nearly a month ago, to talk about the album and the band. Read the interview below:
- What inspired the name of the band, and what are your influences?
Right from the start I didn’t want the band to be a standard rock act with an obvious name and music. I wanted to break new ground and be original, the music had to be epic and thought provoking and the name had to reflect this too. To show the Cloven Hoof means to reveal your evil side, to let it take over. The church of Satan call their church, followers of the Cloven Hoof, in short disciples who worship at the feet of the devil.
I had always had a fascination with the occult and horror movies, so I wanted to reflect this in the name and material of the band. The moniker of a rock group needs to be memorable and powerful, that a crowd could chant out easily, so I began by writing down all the things I could think of with occult word associations. The name that really grabbed me immediately was… Cloven Hoof!
Black Sabbath and Judas Priest are from the same neck of the woods where I grew up, so that location must infuse our music with a certain inherent sound. You cannot ignore your roots and the Black Country has produced some great musicians. I am proud to have been born there. Led Zeppelin, Rush, Thin Lizzy, UFO and Deep Purple were the main bands who inspired me to be a musician. I still love their music to this day.
2. When you started, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement was beginning to kick off, what was it like being around the scene at that time and being considered a pioneer in the movement?
Denim and leather kids really did rule the streets in the late 1970’s early 1980’s. The national press really got behind new UK metal bands, papers like Sounds and later KERRANG magazine were instrumental in the movement gaining popularity. The BBC Friday rock show with Tommy Vance was a national institution and gave many new bands a chance to be heard Cloven Hoof included. The four track session we recorded for Tommy Vance immediately got us signed to Neat Records one of the leading independent metal labels. Our first EP called The Opening Ritual got to number 18 in the metal charts and that helped a lot too. They were fantastic times to be a young metal band with burning ambition.
We stood apart from many N.W.O.B.H.M bands because our sound is undiluted heavy metal fused with prog rock type multi time changes. Power metal is classed as primarily belonging to the European metal market. We seem to be pioneers in this genre too because we play fast epic metal. Cloven Hoof have an aggressive raw edge to our sound that is favoured by American thrash bands so we fit in well with that market also. Another reason we don’t sound typically British is we were always seeking and American style vocal delivery in the style of Dio. I was never fully satisfied with our previous vocalists till now. When I heard George Call sing at Keep it True Festival in Germany I knew he had the voice I always wanted. In George we have the perfect Dio/Halford type singer that the band always required.
3. Could you talk us through the inspiration for the new album, its album cover and the songs? What are your favourite songs on the new record?
We have dug deep explored all facets of our musical identity on “Morning Star.” The new album carries on where Resist Or Serve has left off, We got some fantastic reviews and the fans loved the album. With the addition of George and Danny there is inevitably a different feel to the new album, differences that we feel will make it our best release to date. The full sonic width of the band is explored and there are epic tracks next to more hard hitting numbers that build and cover a whole spectrum of moods and atmospheres, it combines all the best qualities of the trademark Cloven Hoof sound but it is played with precision and the vocal delivery is off the scale. We are back to basics playing from the heart and we think it shows. Every song is different and yet somehow fits together. We want to show where we have come from musically and pave the way for a future direction. It is a very exciting release and I’m positive the fans will agree it is our best ever album. I think the new album will appeal not only to NWOBHM fans but to fans of European power metal as well as an American audience, there is something for everybody, at least that’s the plan.
it’s difficult to choose a favourite as they all have their place on the album and cover different styles yet live together very well. That said ‘Star Rider’ definitely has place as a favourite, it’s an absolute scorcher of an opener, for me it really showcases George’s vocal and how well it suits Cloven Hoof’s style with power and energy and also Luke’s virtuoso guitar solo. In contrast to ‘Star Rider’ the more guitar based heavy riffing ‘Talk to the Dead’ with solid rhythm work from Danny and Chris is a powerful track.
Talking of Danny his out and out favourite is ‘Bannockburn’ again it’s one that has a special place in my heart also. The title track “Morning Star” is one of the best songs I have ever written. It starts slowly then builds into an epic monster!
The album cover shows Lucifer metamorphasising from angel to devil with the keys to hell in his right hand. Artist Alexander von Wieding depicted the brief I gave him perfectly. He really captured the tone and essence of the opus.
The song is about Lucifer Morning Star and his fall from grace, but told from the devil’s perspective. If God is so good why can’t he forgive his most beautiful angel? Why can’t he ever find atonement and redemption. Lucifer is a somewhat heroic figure in this song doomed because of his vanity… is it the ultimate sin of all in God’s own eyes?
4. What inspired you to take a science fiction type direction during the recording of Dominator?
I dropped satanic themes for a while after the debut album because I was worried about it having an adverse effect on the fans. There was a serial killer called the Nightstalker in the States around the time of our “Cloven Hoof” album who killed in the same kind of way as our song suggested. I don’t know if Ramerez was a fan of the band, but I didn’t want to take any chances.
I love “Dominator” it had a lot of Sci Fi themes and multi-time changes, and every track worked very well live. The over all concept of the album was a warning about the dangers of genetic engineering. Nature has a habit of turning the tables on man and i used the premise maybe sometime in the future a super intelligent dictator wille cloned, who enslaves his creators.
I have always been fascinated with sci-fi from an early age. In stories you can use future settings as a metaphor for todays issues and problems. I wonder how far scientists will go in the name of science? Grafting an ear on a mouse, just to show it can be done… it is like something out of Frankenstein.
The military use science towards creating bigger and better weapons of mass destruction. How long before this gets all out of hand and they decide to create the ultimate life form? These notions were the foundations for the album.
5. What are some memorable moments you have of recording and touring over the past forty years?
Too many to mention really but I never stop being proud and humbled by the fans singing along to the songs when we play live. They know every word and punch the air like a bunch of fanatical football supporters. All over the world they react the same and we are so lucky to have such loyal fantastic fans, we are nothing without them. The proof of good music is if it lasts the test of time and as you say we have a 40 year history so we must be doing something right!
6. Do you have a favourite Cloven Hoof song?
Yes Mistress of the Forest off the ‘A Sultans Ransom’ album, it is so etherial sounding. It tells the tale of a female entity that haunts the woodland. She is disguised as a gypsy fortune teller who leads the unwary to her lair and then steals their soul. the song starts slow ballad like then builds into a crescendo though a series of musical movements. it really encapsulates our trademark sound and shows our full bandwidth. Yes I am very proud of that song.