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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.