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Still Alive - 85%

Larry6990, September 25th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Crime Records

It's been a long four years since the release of Iron Fire's seminal "Voyage of the Damned" , and it's a pleasure to see their evolution continue. After twelve years dealing with wizards, dragons and knights, the Danes' 2012 album sent the subject matter towards the stars - the music becoming heavier as a result. Therefore, considering 2016's "Among the Dead" is Iron Fire's ode to a zombie apocalypse, one can only guess how the music will be affected. Needless to say, this was one of my most anticipated releases of the year.

Just beyond the awesome artwork, Martin Steene's voice is the first talking point. The man is inimitable, and his vocal performance here shows that he ages like a fine wine. The growls he had started to employ sparingly on "To The Grave" have grown in relevance and now sound fully developed. My favourite moments on this album are all the "Uugh"s he uses to accentuate a riff - especially on the title track.

After the fall of the 'inferno' project, there were some line-up difficulties resulting in the band becoming a trio. Steene took over bass duties, with the trusty Kirk Backarach and original IF drummer Gunnar Olsen coming back to the fold. This 'reunion', along with Steene's boast about there being no 'studio trickery ', results in a more focused, raw sound - but with all the overblown power metal choruses we've come to love.

Iron Fire do so love a riff, and this new record is chock full of 'em. One or two tracks notwithstanding, every song here contains a section where the texture is stripped back reveal a pummelling riff. The middle-section chug of "Hammer of the Gods" is a clear example, but nothing quite compares to the rifftastic title-track. With its huge chorus and huge-r riffs, it makes for the perfect opener.

To make this a more concise effort, I would trim the album's fat. "The Last Survivor" phones in the heaviness and is generally unremarkable. Also, closer "When The Lights Go Out", being the ballad of the album, feels out of place considering the grittiness of the other tracks. I expected the Metallica cover to be another skipper, (I mean, who needs a millionth version of "For Whom The Bell Tolls" ?) but by jove, it's actually very admirable!

On the whole, "Among the Dead" is a pure riff-fest. "Tornado of Sickness" sees Steene and Co. channeling their inner Megadeth; "Higher Ground" should have you headbanging til it hurts; and "Ghost from the Past" is some of the most vicious riffage to come out of this band. With so much to enjoy on this new LP, it's easy to forgive the guys for taking so long. Just, please don't make us wait four years til the next one!

"Crawl among the Dead!
When the madness comes for us all,
Who will be kneeling?
Among the Dead!