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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.