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Uninspired but Brilliant Heavy Metal - 85%

Milkfiend, November 1st, 2006

For those of you who don’t know, all of Iron Savior’s previous albums have followed a science fiction story masterminded by bandleader Piet Sielck with each new release adding another chapter to the Iron Savior saga. The approach has been slightly altered for Battering Ram with only a few of the songs continuing the story and the others exploring broader lyrical themes – for example “Break the Curse” seems to be about depression.

Newcomers, particularly fans of the more grandiose power metal outfits, should note that although Iron Savior are power metal (clearly inspired by Gamma Ray and Painkiller era Judas Priest) their sound is much more down-to-earth than their more “epic” genre mates. Piet Sielck’s vocals are something of a rarity in the genre and he has a more limited range than the typical femme-boy power metal vocalist epitomised by Michael Kiske (actually, I think that Kiske’s great) yet remain clean and powerful throughout – think Hansi Kürsch but replace his occasional softer singing and craftiness of his voice with good old-fashioned toughness. Aside from that, Battering Ram is characterised by stomping double bass drumming that’s not of the variety that will cause your ears to bleed, occasionally audible bass lines, powerful guitar leads and riffs and big, memorable melodic choruses.

Sound familiar to fans? It should. Perhaps unsurprisingly there has been no huge stylistic leap between this album and Savior’s earlier work, yet it bears the closest resemblance to Condition Red. The most notable differences between this album and its predecessors are the lack of another lead vocalist on any track (similarly to Condition Red) and the lack of the traditional cover song to round off the album (again, à la Condtion Red).

Somehow, the Iron Savior team have managed to infuse this album with even more power than before – perhaps its down to Piet Sielck sounding better than ever or the more guitar driven sound (don't expect a lot of keyboards). The rhythm section has also changed around a bit with a new bassist who competently fills the role (though the bass is not as prominent on this album as on others – this isn’t really a problem though as the release still sounds very powerful and complete) and Thomas Nack’s drumming has improved somewhat from his rather lacklustre offering on the previous album.

Unfortunately there is little variety to be found on this disc and many of the tracks sound similar (even lyrically) to others on the album and to songs from earlier Savior releases. The music is still certainly very good – I can’t think of a song which is actively bad on the album - and the notably different guitar styles of Küstner and Sielck make for some great solo swapping on a few of the songs: definitely a highlight. Casual listeners (especially those who don’t really like Sielck’s vocals) may find the entire album difficult to digest especially since the momentum is carried from beginning to end and even the slower tracks (Wings of Deliverance and Machine World) pound away with relentless heaviness. Also the lack of variation invariably leads to some forgettable tracks such as Time Will Tell.

Highlights include the storming title track (bonus points for this one as it is clearly the best lovemaking song ever – just listen to that raunchy chorus: “To bang like a battering ram / unleashing the force of the storm / to bang like a battering ram”. Well, quite.), Stand Against the King (great chorus on this one), Wings of Deliverance (with guest musician Martin Christian playing some of the album’s best guitar leads) and, despite its rather weak lyrics, H.M. Powered Man (which starts off in exactly the same way as Iron Maiden’s 2 Minutes to Midnight).

Iron Savior fans looking for more of the same certainly won’t be disappointed and newcomers looking to “break into” the band could do worse then to pick up this CD (unless, of course, you really care about the story). Those who were hoping for something fresh and new may be disappointed but really, the straightforward heavy metal attitude, amazing power, song writing and musicianship displayed on this release make it virtually impossible for any metal fan to dislike.