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Iron Fire is one of those bands I never paid much attention to – heard a few albums years ago, but they never quite blew me away. Well apparently while I wasn’t paying attention, they went and turned into a first rate power metal act. Voyage of the Damned is their new album and in lieu of their old stodgy Swedish sound with its galloping riffs and charmingly nasal, incompetent vocal melodies, here they give us a dark, feral and epic sound recalling bands as diverse as Communic and later-period Dragonland. Does that pique your interest? Well…I don’t care if it did or not. I’m doing the review anyway.
This is a good album because the songs are all lively and energized. The band is great at writing these six minute songs with heavy guitars and catchy choruses that despite repeating quite a bit, never get dull. The main focus is on Martin Steene’s vocals, which have improved a ton since the last time I heard him on 2007’s Blade of Triumph album – seriously, it’s like night and day. Here he sounds commanding and mature, delivering some really good vocal lines and sounding something like Warrell Dane would if he actually had any talent. His voice is deep and powerful as hell.
The riffs are mostly relegated to simplistic chugging, but the guitar playing is really solid and works very well for what the album is going for. People who can’t listen to anything but 80s-inspired guitarwork might hate it, but I’ve always been of the opinion that if a sound works for the overall style you’re going for, use it. People who expect every member of a band to constantly show off and do virtuosic things with their instruments are silly – sometimes a band has to dial down elements of the sound to achieve a certain atmosphere or feel to whatever they’re doing. You don’t have to have manic shredding to have a great metal album and Iron Fire on here shows that they know that full well, as the songwriting here is spot on.
The first half of this is markedly better than the second, with killer tunes like “Taken,” “Slaughter of Souls” and the mammoth 10-minute title track (featuring Pagan’s Mind frontman Nils K. Rue as a guest slot). The second half is good and has the awesomely creepy and atmospheric “Dreams of the Dead Moon,” but overall the shorter song lengths end up feeling a bit anticlimactic as opposed to the power metal killing of the first five or six tracks. They’re still cool songs, but just not as cool as some of the other ones. Maybe a reordering of the track list would have made this a more consistent listen, but as it stands, the shorter songs that end the album don’t really click as well overall.
So Voyage of the Damned is a cool power metal album and one of the more fun ones I’ve heard this year. If you like heavy, dark and hook-filled power metal or even just space-themed melodic metal, this is one you won’t want to miss this year.
Even though Iron Fire have been occupying metal scene for fifteen years now on, I've never taken them seriously. You see, I've always had some sort of disrespect for generic power metal that keeps on following the same patterns on and on and on, in both musical and lyrical department. Iron Fire were exactly that sort of thing - good band, but with chronic lack of originality. So my expectations weren't sky high for their latest album, Voyage of the Damned.
Was I in for a big surprise or what...
Voyage of the Damned shows that something really big happened in the band since the quasi-compilation Metalmorphosized. No longer there are regular power metal anthems about valiant warriors of steel. No, instead Martin Steene decided to take us straight into dark depths of space. It is definitely something new for Fire, and it is accompanied with undoubtedly the heaviest music this band has ever put out. Comparisons will be inavoidable with old and this brand new Iron Fire, so let's start.
Whereas before Iron Fire seemed to have been stuck in circa 1999, the glorious times for New Wave of European Power Metal (I named it), this record is as modern as it gets - crunchy, distorted, brutally heavy guitars, slick drums and occasionally computerized voice (not in a Black Eyed Peas manner, thank god). Also, while the previous albums carried a lot of victory and triumph feeling, on Voyage of the Damned all you can feel is the impression of hopelessness and impending disaster. This is excellent in my mind, and the band (especially Martin Steene) are very convincing in delivering the emotions. As a final proof that Iron Fire really tried out something new, I'll say that Steene several times goes for growling, and on ''Slaughter of Souls'' you can hear none other than Dave Ingram, vocalist of Bolt Thrower, the only death metal band that I actually enjoy. His monstrous growls really add something to an already great song.
God, so many things to say, so many bits to notice... one of the first things you'll notice is how bass is prominent in the mix. Jakob Hansen really did a great job on producing this album, and his hiring was probably part of a big plan called ''Iron Fire ver. 2.0''. Nice job! Also, keyboards are very tastefully put, ranging from frantic electronica in ''Enter Oblivion OJ-666'' to distant, haunting piano in ''Dreams of a Dead Moon''. Many bands just don't know how to use keyboards properly, you know. My opinion, and I think that many would agree, is that keys should be a supportive instrument whose role is to conjure the atmosphere of the song. Rune Stiassny did it just perfectly.
So, after all this praise, why not a better score, you might ask? The reason is simple - apart from the ballad ''The Final Oddysey'' all the other songs are in similar fashion - strong, simple, chugging riffs (Iron Fire goes Pantera?), which doesn't contribute much to the versatility of the album, no matter how much Martin Steene was inspired during the recording. Still, lyrics are probably the main reason why most of these songs sounds samey - the story goes like this: ''it was a routine flight to Mars, something has fucked up, OMG we're all gonna die!''. After analysis, I think that it would be better if this was a concept album, with the aforementioned plot, but divided in 11-12 songs, not 11 fucking songs all with the same thematics (I don't count the intro). Since this is their first experimentating, I am more than ready to turn a blind eye to them. After all, Voyage of the Damned is truly a breath of fresh air in Iron Fire's discography.
Out of the bunch, the best songs would probably be ''Enter Oblivion OJ-666'', the monstrous opener with some pummeling double-bass drumming and frighteningly catchy chorus. However, the best part of the song is it's buildup, with great computerized voice in the beginning, verses full of tension (great rhythm by the way) which all together erupts into really great, mighty chorus. If there was some guide like How to make a power metal anthem, this one would be right there, along with ''Time Stands Still'', ''I Want Out'' and many more immortal tracks. But, it is not the best song in here, no, son. That flattering award goes to ''Leviathan'', which is without the shadow of a doubt one of the best Iron Fire's songs ever. This is where all virtues of this album come together - mighty riff, great choral keys, Steene's unique vocals, and above all, the pure, 100% authentic feeling of despair. The story is some sort of mix between John Carpenter's The Thing and Ridley Scott's Alien, really grim and ominous. I wish that the video for the song was made better, as it could've been really spectacular if it was done with more money and imagination. Yeah, ''Slaughter of Souls'' rules too, but I've described it earlier on, no need to do it again.
As you probably guessed, I was more than pleasantly suprised with Voyage of the Damned. It was a bold move for Iron Fire, bold move that succeeded in the end. Even with some flaws, I still think that this is their huge step forward and hopefully they'll continue to surprise us in the future. Anybody who wishes to see Iron Fire's new clothes should feel free to check out Voyage of the Damned, for this is their turning point.
Is this really Iron Fire? Is this the same sound we have been used to listen on their previous releases? For sure it isn't, here you can't find any songs in the rhymes of "Thunderspirit", "Lord Of The Labyrinth", "Wings Of Rage" and other songs from the band's past which are best described as soft songs, the band have also released in the past some songs in a darker side such as "The Beast From The Blackness", "Riding Through Hell" and some few other songs and here you have a full CD in their darkest side, of course you have some songs that are not so dark but even though are very strong.
The whole concept of this CD is what the title of this CD is all about, "Voyage Of The Damned", where you can find lyrics about voyages, space, galaxy, odyssey and other stuff.
After the short intro you'll listen to the brilliant "Enter Oblivion OJ-666" where you can listen a computer voice and then Martin Steene's great vocals, brilliant song to start this very dark release by Iron Fire. Other songs that deserves highlights are the speed and powerful "Taken", "Leviathan" which is the song they chose as their official videoclip, the epic kind of ballad "The Final Odyssey" which is a very different song where you can listen only Martin's vocals and some space sounds mixed with piano, the epic long "Voyage Of The Damned" featuring Nils K. Rue (Pagan's Mind vocalist), the amazing "With Different Eyes", "Dreams Of The Dead Moon" which has a very different and cool chorus, "Verge To Collide" and the final song "Realm Of Madness"
I'm a big fan of all previous releases by the band and I like a lot the band's softer side which most of their songs has it's amazing catchy chorus. We could see a little darker side of the band on "Metalmorphosis" released in 2010 which is my least favorite from the band as it has moved a little bit from their early style. With this release the band has become even more darker but I've found these songs more enjoyable than the band's previous release. This is not my favorite Iron Fire CD as you miss some of their past songs where the chorus grabs in your mind for some time even though I've enjoyed this CD pretty much and you can find some great choruses here too. If you didn't like Iron Fire in the past because of their "happy" songs and you like more dark songs, be sure to get this CD out.
Originally written for: http://hhnews.hdfree.com.br