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Back through time - 90%

Andreas_Hansen, March 8th, 2018

As mentioned in my Night's "Raft of the World" review, Scandinavia and the 2000s seem to be a good combination of factors for a revival heavy metal band to be. Air Raid is one of these numerous bands that try today to sound and to look the most old-school way as possible, even getting to the bottom of things with a very retro-way to dress and to make the promotion of their content (promoting mostly vinyl and for some bands tapes).

Air Raid is a young but promising Swedish metal band that was formed less than ten years ago, in 2009. For the moment the band is quite active, as they have one release every two years on average. They have one demo called... "Demo", released in 2011, then the same year came out one EP "Danger Ahead" and a first full-length "Night of the Axe" that fully allowed the band to show their intentions in term of sonorities. They released in 2014 "Point of Impact" (which was the last album in their discography at the time this review was written) and finally "Across the Line" that came out last year.

This band is the perfect example of a young band that starts with a solid first release, but that is still trying to improve their play as they are making music. "Night of the Axe" was already a very satisfying disc, but it seems that the band reached their peak with "Point of Impact" (which is now debatable with their new album). The album is characterized by a succession of heavy metal riffs smelling good old-school vibes, even though the structure of the songs is more or less all the same. Everything in this disc is made for reminding you of the glorious era of traditional metal, from the very accessible sonorities to the very retro-looking artwork that strongly reminds me of the Swiss hard FM-like power metal band Crystal Ball's "Hard Impact".

This disc can be split in two. In the first part, there are all the speed metal-like, high-tempo songs like "Bound to Destroy", "Wildfire" or "Vengeance". In the second part, there are at the opposite songs that sound more mid-tempo like "Madness", "Victim of Night" or "The Fire Within". The songs of the first part remind a lot of the old school speed metal tunes of the 80's as they are full of tremolo picking, where everything goes quickly. The drum set isn't especially heavy or sustained but it always fits well the chords and the melody. It is basically quite simple and not especially technical, but everything is made correctly.

The riffs make clearly the essential part of this album. Each song has at least one excellent and memorable riff and a whole bunch of good solos. We could notice a tendency to use minor chords, making the result quite melancholic - or nostalgic of the old period? - yet without losing all the power of the song like in the excellent "Vengeance".

The singing is also somehow a tribute to the old-school bands, as it is particularly high-pitched. It has a particular importance since the guitar leads and riffs are often quite melodic and high-pitched as well, so this singing fits perfectly in and creates an even better finish. The singing really brings something important to Air Raid's music as it can create by itself a little epic or melancholic atmosphere in the song.

In conclusion, despite a very basic sound and a very basic way of composition, Air Raid's "Point of Impact" really succeeds in creating a very old-school-like atmosphere to would make us back through time, thirty years earlier. This magic trick is due to an excellent fresh, new composition alternating between heavy, speed and sometimes even power metal, summarizing in that way everything classic that was made before, without falling in the trap of an umpteenth boring Iron Maiden-like. The only thing we could reproach to this album would be its length, as it lasts only thirty-four minutes.

The album even has its own instrumental, called "Flying Fortress", which a short song resuming everything this album offers: an endless continuation of good riffs, a very catchy rhythm, nice solos and a quite good - but too short - bass solo.

Originally written in French for Tunes of Steel.

Pretty impressive throwback Swedish speed metal. - 90%

PowerProg_Adam, February 28th, 2015

A few years back there was a pretty heavy trend of young bands coming out with a classic heavy and speed metal sound. Most of them were from either America or England, which is understandable considering all the bands who came out of those countries back in the glory years of heavy metal. Personally I am a huge fan of this when it is done properly, but sometimes it takes a bit of work to make an album sound like it came out in 1987. I never really would have expected the Swedes to be joining in on all of the fun, but Air Raid is one band who has been doing a great job of paying homage to classic 80s speed metal mastery.

With their second release, Point of Impact, in 2014 its really difficult to tell that this is in fact a relatively new and young band. The album artwork of their band logo in flames flying into the earth although a bit silly, looks very much like something many bands would have done back in the day. The run time of the album at 8 tracks and at not even 35 minutes is something that many had producing in the past as well. I really have no complaints against a relatively short album as it is one that doesn't mess around and kicks you right in the face with its intensity. One of the biggest problems that most bands have run into when trying to replicate some of the roots of heavy metal is production quality. They keep the modern elements of mixing and mastering an album and just try to throw in a few old schools riffs and it often doesn't come off very well. Point of Impact has a bit of a gritty analog production quality going on, but it honestly sounds remarkable.

This album has several highlights for me. The opening track Bound to Destroy starts off with a lot of intensity and a very memorable and aggressive riff. The vocalist sings rather cleanly throughout the song and has what I would consider to be one of the better voices in speed metal. If I had to compare him to anybody it would be the singer of Stormwitch. At the end of the song he hits a pretty amazing high note that he is able to sustain for a considerable amount of time. Also the guitar solo is very clean and calculated and it comes back with a very nice and calculated twin guitar solo very reminiscent of early Iron Maiden.

Victim of the Night is probably my favorite track on the album. It starts off with some rather light vocals before kicking into a pretty catchy twin guitar riff. I really can't reiterate how good their singer is though. He isn't too over the top constantly like some vocalists of the genre, but has a very clean and smooth vocal delivery. This song almost reminds me musically of something that might have fit in on Dokken's debut album, only with an a really impressive twin guitar solo instead of just a lone axe attack. The melodic aspect of this band is very reminiscent of many of their bands from their homeland Sweden. This may be another reason why I like this considerable more than a lot of power/speed metal I've heard. Its aggressive when it needs to be, but is capable of writing memorable choruses and songs in general.

Vengeance is probably my second favorite song on the album and the most intense. I found myself headbang pretty much five seconds into the song all the way through. This song definitely has a plethora of guitar riffs and the extra backing vocals added to the chorus helps make it probably my favorite chorus on the entire album. Once again the solos completely deliver without being overly sloppy and uncontrolled.

Air Raid also picks the perfect song for ending an album. We Got the Force is very aptly named and sounds like something straight out of the mid 1980s. Once again it kicks you right in the face with the intensity of the main guitar riff. Once again the vocalist delivers a stellar performance. There is a very miniscule amount of vocal layering on this track that just makes the chorus that much better. One thing I've also noticed about this track is the rhythm section. Unlike a lot of bands of today the drums and bass are recorded quite audibly. They aren't triggered, there is no extra programs being used, just some very nice and raw instrumentation going on. My only real complaint about this song is that for the final track I would have loved for it to have ended on a really high sustained note, but it just kind of abruptly ends.

Honestly I wasn't expecting that much out of this, since I haven't always been the biggest fan of some of the throwback bands. The vocalist is usually pretty uncontrolled, the solos are sloppy, and the choruses are repetitive as hell. There is seriously none of that here in any way, shape, or form. Although I usually complain about a short run time on an album, I honestly feel like 35 minutes is very appropriate for Point of Impact and it probably would have suffered had they thrown a couple more filler songs on it just to fill space. I very much look forward to hearing more from these guys. This album was a very pleasant surprise.

Originally written for Horror Metal Sounds