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delivering the goods - 80%

Demon Fang, November 24th, 2021

New millennium, new band, right? Well, not entirely – although keep an eye for lineup changes over the next couple of albums – but Dark Assault does show Iron Savior ready to take on the challenges that come with the change of seasons... mainly through doing what they did on Unification. But hey, why bugger with a working formula, right? Well, I will say that Dark Assault is a pretty strong album on its own terms, maintaining a lot of the scale Unification had while pushing out some killer speed metal.

But here’s the thing – as good as it is, it’s not as good as it could’ve been. I listen through the album, I dig the hell out of it, the production’s even more razor-sharp than before and it’s got some fuckin’ banner good riffs… but compared to Unification, it’s just not that great. This is Peter telling Lois she’s his silver medal. Songs like “Never Say Die”, “Seek and Destroy” and “I’ve Been to Hell” do riff hard at the best of times, the compositions are fairly punchy, and the choruses can be catchy. “Never Say Die” has this slick build-up to an explosive riff while “Seek and Destroy” has a real booming chorus, and “I’ve Been to Hell” has a ton of crunch in the riffs. Hansen’s vocals in “Solar Wings” definitely gives it that Gamma Ray vibe, sounding like a B-side from No World Order. “Predators” has this cool trade-off between Sielck and Hansen for the first few verses. Kuck provides some neat atmospheric keys in “Made of Metal”, adds a moodier composition to “Dragons Rising” and gives “After the War” some real zeal – going off of what made “Forevermore” work back on Unification.

Lots of cool moments, with the songs themselves largely hitting a lot like they had before. Admittedly, “Predators” is a rather underwhelming track on its own terms aside from the trading vocals and only a moderately memorable chorus, and “Seek and Destroy” – despite its under-4-minute runtime and despite an otherwise memorable chorus – feels like it goes on forever since they ride a rather middling riff to the ground. Everything else is still enjoyable at a basic level. I’ve already explained the first four songs’ appeal, and they extend to a higher extent to three of the last four tracks. “Firing the Guns” hits like a firing squad, while “Eye of the World” has this galaxy-sized chorus. There’s certainly a lot going in the album’s favor and it does kickstart their transition to the new millennium rather well.

But you go beyond some regular ass power-infused speed metal to a few of the longer cuts on the album. “Dragons Rising” shows a more broad compositional style as everything seems to build off one another, with mid-paced riffing building to a layered chorus, climaxing with the previously mentioned keyboard part. This ends up a rather epic mid-point in the album. It’s about the same sort of thing for “Made of Metal” – a part of the story that can also double as a “brothers of metal, unite” kind of deal. Sielck’s stomping riffs, Hansen’s melodious playing and Kuck’s flourishing keyboards result in a rather strong anthemic deal. The album ends on a damn high note with the emotionally-climactic “After the War” and the excellent cover of “Delivering the Goods”. Covers are usually superfluous, but here, they give the song a more modern makeover to make it even more enjoyable than the Priest classic – and like yeah I say modern, but the album’s like 20 years old, you know what I mean.

Dark Assault is one of highs and relative lows. I mean, much of the latter is more in comparison to the prior full-length album than on their own terms, although some of it is through a couple of absolutely not-great songs. Still, it’s with the highs that the album can stand rather tall. Three albums in and the Hansen/Sielck tag-team have proven the strength and utility of Iron Savior’s punchy melodic speed metal.