Iron Fire, "Revenge"
This is the band's third release and first in five years. The only original member left in the group is vocalist Martin Steene, who has been singing for Force OF Evil of late. After half a decade, it was a surprise to see Steene back in the trenches with another Iron Fire album. I picked up the debut due to online hype, but was left bewildered by its approach, mixing power metal with crotch rocků thus I never heard their second record. I liked what Martin did with Force of Evil (losing his tendency to mimic early Vince Neil with all its annoying nasal enunciations), so I was curious to see what was up with Iron Fire round three.
I really wanted to hype this release after reading the group's bio on their web site. In an industry that is inundated with overtly absurd hyperbole, the band breaks down their past with brutal and refreshing honesty - pulling no punches and revealing all of their painful failings. That's fuckin' cool and major props to the band, its management and label for not spinning bullshit. Honesty is the best policy.
So what we have with "Revenge" is a traditional metal concept record revolving around a mystical tale of a barbarian warrior with lyrics about how metal will conquer (have I mentioned I hate self referential lyrics yet? If not, please make note of that). I seem to recall Steene saying in some interview that some tracks for this release were dropped or rearranged or something, so I don't know how well the concept holds together (it's not exactly a captivating story, and with just a cardboard promo and no lyrics, I wasn't intrigued by the music enough to care). Musically and vocally, it's standard, well-done, albeit unspectacular trad/power metal. The band mixes in lots of various influences, but stays true to the tried and true. In between the pounding rhythms and stomping riffs you get some piano balladry, nice trade-off leads, reflective acoustic bits, gang choruses, speedy guitar work, synthesized strings, a hint of Thin Lizzy-styled Celtic influence (of which I'm a sucker for) and an occasional death grunt. Steene's vocals are good for this style, maintaining a gritty upper register without straying into dog whistle shrieks too often.
All in all it's a solid yet average traditional metal record with a fairly major caveat for fans of the genre - there are no real anthems or corkers that will stick with you upon first listen (a feat that the upper echelon bands in this style manage to accomplish with seeming ease). Production and mix are great, the playing is sharp and concise and Martin's obvious affinity for the style comes through with his capable performance, yet without any real "hits", it's not an album that will get the power metal troops raising their swords. Still, if you're a huge aficionado of the genre, "Revenge" is well done and well worth giving a listen.