CLOVEN HOOF - Heathen Cross  CD
CLOVEN HOOF - Heathen Cross  CD
CLOVEN HOOF - Heathen Cross CD

HRR 958CD, slipcase

Lee Payne - Bass Guitar
Harry (The Tyrant) Conklin - Lead Vocals
Luke Hatton - Lead Guitar
Chris Coss - Lead Guitar
Ash Baker Drums / Backing Vocals
Chris Dando - Keyboards / Backing Vocals

01 Benediction
02 Redeemer
03 Do What Thou Wilt
04 Last Man Standing
05 Darkest Before the Dawn
06 Vendetta
07 Curse of the Gypsy
08 Frost and Fire
09 Sabbat Stones
10 The Summoning


Mixed and mastered by Patrick W. Engel at TEMPLE OF DISHARMONY in December 2023.

Midlands outfit Cloven Hoof must rate as one of the most legendary bands of the entire New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement. The origins of the group go back to the year 1979, when they first formed under the name of Nightstalker. In 1981, however, the band switched to their new moniker: Cloven Hoof. Original vocalist David Potter, guitarist Steve Rounds, drummer Kevin Poutney and main man Lee Payne on bass adopted the stage characters of ‘Earth’, ‘Fire’, ‘Water’ and ‘Air’. A very interesting concept which was far ahead of its time.
After recording demo versions of songs such as “Return Of The Passover” and “Nightstalker”, Cloven Hoof issued their debut vinyl 12” EP »The Opening Ritual« on Elemental Music in 1982 (today a precious collector’s item). In 1984, the self-titled Cloven Hoof album was released, followed by »Fighting Back« (1986), »Dominator« (1988) and »A Sultan’s Ransom« (1989).
After splitting up in the 1990s, Cloven Hoof returned with a new line-up and a new record called »Eye Of The Sun« in 2006. In 2014, »Resist Or Serve« was recorded, followed by »Who Mourns For The Morning Star?« (2017), both on High Roller Records.
According to bassist Lee Payne this record was a bit of a game changer for Cloven Hoof: “The »Who Mourns For The Morning Star?« album enabled us to tour America for the first time because the fans loved it over there. The band had an Anglo-American line-up with three of us coming from the UK. Namely the two guitar players Chris Coss and Luke Hatton and myself on bass coming from England. The singer George Call and drummer Danny White hailed from America. We had two continents to concentrate on for touring. Europe has always been a great territory for Cloven Hoof, so we played many festivals all over the EU. The USA was a fantastic place to play and in many ways a dream come true for the English guys. It was so successful we did two back to back tours all over the United States and Canada. We played more or less every single night for three months straight.”
Since then, Cloven Hoof have issued two more studio albums, »Age Of Steel« on Pure Steel Records in 2020 and »Time Assassins« on FM Revolver two years later. Their brand new album »Heathen Cross« marks the return to High Roller Records, as Lee Payne explains: “We only went with Pure Steel because they said they were better placed to handle the push stateside. Cloven Hoof toured in America extensively, so it seemed to make sense. In the end we were not convinced Pure Steel were doing us justice, and the same can be said for FM Revolver. We have nothing against either label but we felt more at home with High Roller who understand our brand of metal. We missed the attention to detail and the extensive distribution network they have. The killer production of Patrick Engel is a huge bonus, so we are back now where the band belongs.”
Cloven Hoof has in the past been “plagued” by numerous line-up changes and the new album does not make an exception: “Due to Brexit and the trouble surrounding the global economy after Covid, the costs of touring became astronomical. There are no cheap flights to America any more, so George Call and Danny White had to be replaced unfortunately. It was not cost-effective to have USA personnel, even though they were great musicians and wonderful people. Business is business and we would have been operating at a great loss financially.”
Enter a certain Harry “The Tyrant” Conklin, of all people: “Harry Conklin is a world-class vocalist and he is based in Greece, a viable location to fly from price wise. Harry is super dedicated and highly professional and we knew he would fit in the band seamlessly. His vocal performance on the new album raises the band to new heights, so I can’t wait for the fans to hear him. Harry is an astounding singer, he is so versatile. He can sing high, low and always with power and passion. He knows how to live and sell a song. Harry is like an actor telling a story, no one interprets my lyrics like Mr. Conklin. I can’t praise him enough. We should have worked together years ago. Ash Baker plays the drums live and on album. He has been in he band for eight years anyway, because he also plays killer guitar and sings like a genius. Chris Coss has been in the band for over 13 years and Luke Hatton on guitar has been with us ten years, so we have a rock solid line-up. Chris Dando joins us on stage from time to time, also on keyboards and backing vocals. So sometimes we are a six-piece live on stage.”
“»Heathen Cross« is Cloven Hoof’s most dark and heavy album yet!”, continues the bassist. “It has the Satanic undertones of our debut album, but with the best vocalist the group has ever had. Personally speaking it is hands down my favourite Cloven Hoof album yet!”
With songs like “Do What Thou Wilt”, “Sabbat Stones” and “The Summoning” lyrically Cloven Hoof seem to be going back to their classic period, dealing with the supernatural and the occult. “That is 100% on the nail,” confirms Payne. “We wanted to recapture the spirit and the supernatural majesty of the debut album. Talking to the fans we have given them what they wanted most, a return to the roots of the NWOBHM. They are going to love it!”
The production of »Heathen Cross« also fits well: “We went for a traditional band all playing together live in the studio vibe to capture the essence of the old days without computer and pro-tools trickery. A real band playing real instruments in the studio is rare these days. But we strive to record everything as clear as possible to preserve dynamics, layering and punch. The only producer who could do the project justice was Patrick Engel. I knew he understood our requirements perfectly, he is a genius at producing epic doom laden metal.”
The album starts in true Cloven Hoof style with the intro “Benediction”, sounding very sinister, as Lee Payne is pointing out: “It works as a contrast for when the heavy stuff kicks in. That is the thing about epic metal, the light and shade work perfectly in unison. The heavy parts sound more dramatic and powerful if there is a soft passage to lead it in.”
A good example for this is “Sabbat Stones”, which has indeed a bit of a Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath groove to it. The bassist nodds: “Yes, the song has been with me for a long time in fact. I first wrote it around the first album era but lyrically I never found the right subject till now. A girlfriend who lived in Cornwall told me about the story of standing stones from her local village green having been taken down by the parishioners and placed in a ditch. This was because of a local superstitious legend that told of village maidens dancing there on the Sabbath day. They were turned to stone by god as punishment for doing so. As soon as she told me that, I thought ‘bingo’! That would make a killer song and I remembered the music I had from 1982. The lyrics and that music piece work together beautifully. I had the song structure long before Black Sabbath worked with Tony Martin too. Tony is very underrated, I think he was terrific with Sabbath. We have talked on the phone a few times, a lovely guy too.”
“Vendetta”, on the other hand, is quite uptempo: “We always have some fast tempo songs to keep things fresh and exciting. Variety is important for us because we hate music that is one dimensional. Many bands play various takes on the same song in a formula-driven way. Cloven Hoof have a large bandwidth, so we have many different tempos and atmosphere changes on our albums. We like to keep the fans guessing.”
As the band’s leader and focal point Lee Payne has been active with Cloven Hoof for over 40 years now, so would it be fair to say that the band is his legacy? “Undoubtedly! I have devoted my life to the band and playing the music I love. If I had the chance to do it all again knowing all the trials, tribulations and heartbreak associated with being a heavy metal musician, would I do it? You bet your ass I would!”