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Godlike, but stay away from the ballad! - 90%

Arsenicum, July 1st, 2007

Years ago, I recieved some money for graduating from Highschool, and decided to splash it on a couple of metal albums. I actually bought the Iron Fire album, just because of the cheesy cover and because it was relatively cheap. But boy, was I surprised by the quality.

If you want something innovative stay away from this album, but if you just love good cliché metal, this is definately a must have. It all has been done before, but you can hear the fun the musicians had when making this record. The keyboards on this album don't have the overhand, but fill the often so empty space on speed metal albums. Every song has a chorus which you can sing along to after just hearing it once, and there are a lot of "whohooohoo" sing alongs. Sometimes the band surprises with a somewhat funky intermezzo, as can be heard on the song "Rise of the Rainbow" or some nice solo's, but most of the time, you can predict what is going to come. The lyrics are cheesy as hell, with the sentences ending on "sky" and "die" quite a lot.

Most interesting on this album is the voice of Steene, which you either hate or love . The sound of the record is in your face and straightforward. Only real complaint I have on this album, is the total miss-hit of the ballad Angel of Light. I don't see a reason for putting a ballad between the overall quality mid-tempo and fast tracks, as it totally ruins the moment, and as a "bonus" the ballad has one of the most awfully sounding western-sounding guitar parts. If Iron Fire would have opted to ditch this track, the overall score would have been at least 5 points higher, so all I can say is: skip the track.

Definate highlight of the album is the titlesong Thunderstorm with dynamic drums, a killer riff and a nice sing along chorus. Ofcourse I know that in this review, I pointed and hinted at the lack of originality quite a lot, but that's not what metal is truly about. We all love our cliché's when played right. Just don't pay too much attention to the lyrics, and enjoy this party-record par excellence.

Excellent studio debut. - 95%

hells_unicorn, October 4th, 2006

One of the first things that people should understand about this band before labeling them as "Helloween" or "Running Wild" clones is the era and the location they came out of. 1998 was the very beginning of the rebirt of metal. With the exception of bands such as Blind Guardian, Helloween, Gamma Ray, Nocturnal Rites, Iron Savior, and a couple others this genre was not off the ground yet. It should also be noted that Denmark has not been quite as prolific a country when it comes to Metal music as such places as England, Germany, and Finland.

"Thunderstorm" came out in the midst of an explosion of new acts such as Heavenly, Freedom Call, Lost Horizon, and several others. In the face of such competition, it is nearly impossible not to be overshadowed, but ironically I think that in many ways this album held it's own even amongst such odds. We have a healthy amount of strong songs, and even a handful of classics that I would dub essential listening for power metal fans.

Martin Steene's vocals are pretty much the staple of the band, as he is capable of both the high end wails required of the power metal genre, and also able to get the low grunting sounds associated with Death and Thrash metal. This album sees him pretty much sticking to the higher stuff, although later releases would see a more varied approach. Kristian Martinsen also holds his own on several guitar solos, and gives the band a slight edge over some others in the lead guitar department.

The overall format of this album is that of a collection of short stories set to music, all of them having the recurring theme of Viking warriors and glory on the battle field. If there is any flaw in the structure, it is that all of the individual songs are so well constructed that it is difficult to pick a favorite.

The production on this release is a bit rough, mostly due to a lack of polish on the drum tracks, which is not a flaw that is often to be found on Tommy Hansen's work. Keyboard tracks and extra vocal parts are used sparingly to complement what is clearly a guitar riff and vocal dominated brand of power metal.

Highlights on this album include "The Final Crusade", "Rise of the Rainbow", the title track, "Behind the Mirror" and "Glory to the King". All of these songs contain extremely catchy and powerful choruses that are quite easy to sing along with and will get stuck in your head quickly. "Rise of the Rainbow" is my pick for the best track on here, as it contains a very innovative little hard rock interlude before Martinsen rips into one monster of a guitar solo.

One track on here that is a bit of an outlier is "Angel of Light", the lone ballad on this release. It sounds so cliche 80s glam rock that you almost think that it's a cover of either a Faster Pussycat or Cinderella ballad. Not a bad song, but definately out of place amongst all the other amazingly fast and heavy metal tracks on here.

In conclusion, this is Iron Fire's finest hour as a band, as unfortunately they released probably one of the worst albums of 2002 as a follow up and were subsequently dropped by their label. Although he lost his entire group of original bandmates, Martin Steene was able to pick up the pieces and claw his way back into prominence after 3 years of hard work while not making music with his other band "Force of Evil". This is highly recommended to fans of Helloween style power metal.

Cheesy but tons of fun - 90%

Aeturnus65, May 22nd, 2005

To be fair, let’s get this out of the way up front – Iron Fire are not original in any way. Also, the cheese factor here is through the roof. If you don’t like “cheesy” metal then stay away from this album. If, on the other hand, you can enjoy what is essentially a clone of various other bands (let’s not go there) singing songs about heavy metal and fantasy then you’re in for a treat with “Thunderstorm”. The hour or so of music on this disc is so fun and epic that you can’t help but enjoy it. You know it’s simple, shallow, and corny, but damn if it isn’t tons of fun.

The music on here is pretty much your standard true heavy/power metal – lots of wild drumming, great guitar melodies and solos, soaring vocals, and, most of all, huge sing-along choruses that always bring a smile to your face provided you approach them in a less than serious manner. Vocalist Martin Steene puts on a great show for the duration of the record. Obvious comparisons to Joacim Cans are certainly valid as Steene sounds quite a bit like him. Some people may get hung up on his copycat style, but who really cares? A good vocal performance is a good vocal performance, period, and Steene gives a great one. Looking at some of the corny lyrics, Steene infuses them with such raw emotion and majestic power. For example, in “Metal Victory” when he sings “We will fight for victory, and defend the holy light…” he sounds 100% convincing. Whether or he not he really thinks these are great lyrics he sings with ten times the emotion of many power metal singers. Sure, sometimes he goes a bit over the top with his wailing, but generally he is extremely solid and a high point of the disc.

Backing him up is some great guitar playing. Songs like “Rise of the Rainbow” are just as good musically as they are vocally. Kristian Martinsen and Kristian Iversen handle the chore with aplomb, laying down often simple yet highly effective riffs and melodies. The way Steene matches his vocal melodies with what these two guys are playing is great. Jakob Lykkebo handles the bass, though he is mostly relegated to a background role as is often the case with this sort of metal. On drums we have Gunnar Olsen, and he does an admirable job as well. Thanks in part to the production his drumming seems more powerful and unrestrained than some of the ultra-tight performances on numerous other albums. This isn’t to say he’s bad – actually he does very well here. Once again we see an album benefiting by not having the drummer ride the double bass pedals for the duration of the album. With a sterile production he’d sound bad, but as it is his noisy fills fit in perfectly.

The songs, however, are the real treasures. It’s impossible to pick out a bad one, though they do start to run together a bit toward the end. The beginning, on the other hand, well, that’s another story. Tracks 2, 3, and 4 (“When the Heroes Fall”, “Rise of the Rainbow”, and “Metal Victory”, respectively) are excellent. You’ll find yourself humming along to them in no time despite the already-mentioned cornball lyrics. The album closes on another high note with “Riding Free” (the last track on the non-digipack version), yet another excellent tune with a great chorus. Writing catchy choruses may be Iron Fire’s biggest talent as a band – this album’s full of them. This is one of those albums where everything comes together – the production, the songwriting, the music, the vocals – to produce something that just feels so epic and powerful. Change even one thing and it wouldn’t be the same.

Apparently Iron Fire did indeed tinker with some things on their follow-up to this album, titled “On the Edge”. I have only heard a couple of songs from that album, so I can’t say for sure, but reviewer sentiment across the Internet seems to be that Iron Fire took a major step backwards with their next album. Certainly the stuff I’ve heard doesn’t compare to “Thunderstorm”. In that case I’d have to recommend this one to start with if you’ve never heard Iron Fire. Just know what you’re getting into – cheesy true power metal done very well – and you might find “Thunderstorm” to be great fun as I did.