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“Masters of Metal, Angels of Steel…” - 88%

bayern, October 11th, 2017

I’m sure most of you know very well where this quote has been taken from, slightly modified here to suit the purpose of the exercise, but the truth is that it fully applies to the album reviewed here. Honestly, I wasn’t aware of its existence until very recently, ashamed to admit, but one way or another these obscure gems always manage to find their way, mysterious or otherwise, to me…

Cause this opus rightfully belongs to this category although the musicians involved are not some complete unknowns the drummer Rodney Beasley having taken part in the recordings of Iced Earth’s “Burnt Offerings”, and the guitar player Mark Borgmeyer was a member of the power metallers Alias prior to his joining the crew here, and later helped Crimson Glory’s Ben Jackson with his solo project in the new millennium. A capable batch for sure, one that have clearly created their magnum opus here.

The style on display is pure unadulterated 80’s American power/speed metal, the way it was practiced by luminaries like Helstar, Liege Lord, early Laaz Rockit, with flashes of progressive those not far from the early efforts of Savatage and Queenryche. In other words, Americanada on full-throttle will be witnessed here, but one would hardly complain exposed to this exhibition of metal mastery. “Valley” nicely introduces all the ingredients of the movement with a gradual build-up from heavy stomping rhythms to fast galloping ones, vintage classic US power metal with great soaring emotional clean vocals. “Eye of the Storm” emphasizes on those gallops trying to stay within the faster-paced parametres the lead guitarist also quite busy taking care of the melodic configurations, the latter more prominently featured on “Steel Angel” which begins with an atmospheric serene passage, and later remains on the more lyrical semi-balladic side with the casual more dynamic dash.

“Dorian Grey” is a more intense lasher “winking” at acts like Lethal and Heir Apparent with its more dramatic arrangements reflected in slow burning galvanizing riffs. “Images (of Self-Destruction)” is a formidable galloping progressiver with bold echoes of Helstar’s “Nosferatu” the band displaying their more serious, more complex side with virtuoso classical references giving this number a grandiose operatic flair. More ambition exhibited later with the dark Sanctuary-esque “King of Fools” which bouncy, restless riffage also betrays an early Fates Warning influence the more elaborate embellishments crossed out by the pleasant feelgood heavy rocker “You Can’t Run”, the only less edgy offering here. “Distant Reality” returns to the more aggressive dimensions with more energetic guitars bordering on Savage Grace-like speed metal, with deeper more progressive circulations adding more variety to the riff-patterns with heavier, pounding reverberations vociferously closing the song and the whole album.

Unfortunately, tributes of the kind were destined to remain isolated nods to a dying genre, with other acts (Annex, Recon, Brothers Grimm, etc.) also boarding the one-album-wonder wagon before largely vanishing without a trace. Our friends here as well as the other mentioned acts had the job done, though, to keep the style alive until the appearance of longer-lasting purveyors like Steel Prophet, New Eden, Iced Earth (later period), the more episodic Mystic Force, etc. These “angels of steel” didn’t last long enough to see their “wings” cut off by the groovy/aggro “police”, and managed to (un)quietly sneak under its radar. The times are much safer now, and the re-release of the album here in 2016 is hopefully a sign that another “angelic” flight might occur in the future.