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Zone of Alienation - 90%

CaptainGordon_94, August 21st, 2015

Steelwing are going from a dry desolate Earth-like wasteland on Lord of the Wasteland to a dystopian space-like atmosphere filled with nuclear fallout. Zone of Alienation is the young Swedish band's second album. While the majority of the lineup remains the same, there is a new bass player in the house that goes by the name of Nic Savage.

As was the same with Lord of the Wasteland this record starts out with a short instrumental. This one being called 2097 A.D sets the mood for the album with a sort of cyber atmospheric composition. It is interesting to say the least but I can't make up my mind whether I like it or not. The guitar work is top notch once again with axemen Robby Rockbag and Alex Vega having major influences on every song. Songs such as the incredible Solar Wind Riders and the catchy Tokkotai (Wind of Fury) are prime examples of this ability.

On any Steelwing release you can always expect powerful soaring vocals provided by Riley that range from softer and a little deeper to speedy, energetic and a crazy high pitch. This album is no different, no different in the sense that our ears are still being graced by his irresistible voice and on songs like The Running Man (which is based on the Arnold Schwarzenegger film of the same title) and the energy radiating Full Speed Ahead you can definitely get a good feel of this.

While adopting the more mainstream catchy choruses on this album, like the title track Zone of Alienation, there are a couple of nice surprises that diversifies the album. I am talking about the instrumental They Came From the Skies and the groovy tune Breathless. They Came From the Skies shows off great musicianship from all members particularly the bass and drums which have both been a little bland throughout the record. And Breathless has quite a hair metal feel to it, the seductive singing about women probably does that. It just brings a small element of fun to the album.

The Swedes do a good job of sticking to the theme once again with virtually every song having some mention or story about either space, mutation or death. Title track Zone of Alienation is a perfect example, with well written lyrics that is like a story. And with Riley again writing all the lyrics there is no wonder why each song feels so epic just like their previous album.

The only let downs in this otherwise excellent album is the drums which are a bit dull and repetitive and the bass which is drowned out on most songs. Also the longest song Steelwing have done, the 11 minute Luncay Rising, could have been shorter without anyone missing anything (although this song does have some of the best drumming on the album). Ultimately this is a very solid release from a band who definitely have the stuff to make a great career in the long run.

Exploring The Solar System - 87%

thrashtidote, May 17th, 2012

I suppose many of you are already aware of the expanding mass of Swedish traditional heavy metal bands, aside from the turbulent assault of Swedeath monsters. The scene never seems to dwindle and with every new band it grows stronger, even more robust then before, and this overgrowing tumor of bands also boasts the quality of older bands, thus giving birth to an abundance of quality bands. Steelwing made a strong enough appearance with the release of their debut ''Lord Of The Wasteland'', and while their sophomore may not be able to surpass the mark that the debut had set for itself, the sophomore still manages to come close. For people who have little idea of what Steelwing sound like, allow me to briefly explain. Steelwing have the obvious traits of heavy metal, and obvious influences that should bring Maiden and Priest to the mind of many. While they sound a lot like the acknowledged masters, Steelwing still bring a fair amount of melody and their own differing twists and turns into the music, creating something that's still relatively diverse yet succinct and comprehensible by pretty much any listener.

''Zone Of Alienation'' doesn't explore many various elements, and perhaps keeping the music a little too concise may have been a mistake, but in during the collision of harmonious melodies and catchy riffs, one scarcely notices the lack of creativity. Plus, you have to admit, this is music that just sounds better when its plain and not very complex, so I can't really deduct points from the band for sounding simple. I'll still persist on my opinion time to time, but all the positive factors of this album would easily cover up my theories. ''Zone Of Alienation'' is lyrically driven towards themes associated with space and all things alien, while the music is simply a soothing gust of wind that's flurried in a soft way, but at the same time slightly assorted in its own terms, repeatedly shifting between various tempos and styles that are all riffs that could be easily found on classic heavy metal releases, only offering a few peculiar attributes. Most tracks have the typical verse-bridge-chorus structures, plain but very enjoyable and memorable nonetheless, and chorus sequences are usually boasted with that epic power/heavy touch with long duration power chords flying around the high pitched vocals soaring over everything -- a beautiful sight.

The good thing about the album is that it's relaxed and never too serious so that it can have the same sort of effect on the listener, chilling his/her mind, and there's no desperate foraging or search for a crucial sound, so the band doesn't fail miserably while trying to attain something utterly different and complex. I love how spate, harmonious guitars linger around shortly along with the soft, chord driven passages. Steelwing is not a group that's up for violent, forceful music, and you should just let the gentle music ooze viscously and effortlessly, with no display of showing great force. Certain sections of ''The Running Man'' and ''Tokkotai (Wind Of Fury)'' are relatively rapid and spiky, while ''Full Speed Ahead'' is a song that's one with its name, showing some serious speed/heavy badassery and incredibly dynamic riffs, both strong and melodic, and the ten minute mega-chain ''Lunacy Rising'' links together everything that has already been offered on the album with almost unnoticeable, brief passages.

Steelwing did a bloody decent job with their sophomore effort, damn near to their astonishing debut. I hope that the waves of bands that come after this are just as good as Steelwing, for if they are the blossoming heavy metal scene in Sweden will suddenly turn into a bountiful treasure of bands. Steelwing are very good at what they do bringing all the common aspects of heavy metal then offering them in the best way possible, but the good thing is, there are scores of bands that play their metal very similar to Steelwing, and unless you didn't like this, you would torturing yourself by not listening to these other groups such as Katana, Portrait, In Solitude, Trial and many more. I'm almost ascertain that that these bands will continue to go ''Full Speed Ahead'', exhaling the enamoured sound of the 80's with ease.

Zone Of Alienation
Lunacy Rising
Full Speed Ahead

Rating: 87%

Somewhere Out In Space - 80%

WishmasterTheDark, March 26th, 2012

Yes, "somewhere out in space" reminds of legendary Gamma Ray's album, and there's a big lyrical similarity. Steelwing abandoned post-apocalypse, and continued the journey, in the space this time. However there are some songs which are not connected with album artwork - Breathless and Tokkatoi (Wind Of Fury). Breathless is classic heavy metal song with hard rock edge, and it could fit well in description known as hard 'n' heavy. Tokkatoi (Wind Of Fury) is much faster and energetic song with strong all-around instrumental parts and vocals as well. First one has Manowar-ish lyrics related to sex, and the other is about Kamikazes... the rest of the songs are about space adventures. Lyrical topic doesn't matter at all, as long as lyrics are well-written songs can be about socks, flowers, squirrels, anything. That doesn't mean they are nerds, just guys who have some fun, and write different stuff than usual religion bashing, thrashing and smashing, etc.

After such perfect debut album it was clear as a day that they will not be able to reach the same level of greatness, and unfortunately that's exactly what happened. Somehow things went down a bit, but not too much. It's the same fucking Steelwing, this time with new inspiration, ideas, creativity and a bit softer sound. Lord Of The Wasteland was full of raw, aggressive, intense and kick-ass riffs, while riffs here are still great, but a bit less original in some songs, and less powerful. Less powerful doesn't have to mean bad, that's because mainly riffs are done with melodic approach, perfect examples are Solar Wind Riders, Tokkatoi (Wind Of Fury) and Zone Of Alienation, while Full Speed Ahead! has raw riffs combined with great leads. These songs are energetic, bombastic, with some seriously ass-kicking technical guitar solos. Robby and Alex continued their tradition with nice riffs, leads and solos. Riley still kicks major ass with his vocal performances, but it's notable that his banshee screams were much more powerful on Lord Of The Wasteland.

Oskar made sure to make more interesting drum work, with nice pedal work, and drumming in general. Weaker parts of this release appear right after Zone Of Alienation song. That part of the album is pure filler. Why they decided to make such boring, non-memorable and non-exciting instrumental song They Came From The Skies? If they will continue doing instrumentals like this in the future it would be better to stop that silly idea on time. The Running Man had to be more energetic because it's about fucking chase, you know, some more musical action, to cover those lyrics. Overall, it's very good one, it has killer melodic riffs, nice guitar solo, but middle part is a bit boring because of the mentioned reason. Lunacy Rising is their suicidal attempt to make very long song. Songs are a bit shorter comparing to debut album, and they wanted to substitute that lack with 10 minutes long song. If it didn't have few killer riffs and some tasty melodies which merge into solos, it would be as crap as They Came From The Skies.

Good sides of this release:
Majority of these songs are excellent. Lots of killer melodic riffs and excellent combination of raw riffs with lead guitars. Solos are technical, well-inspired and enjoyable to listen. Lyrics are once again well-written, and they are mainly about space journey concept. Drum beats are very creative and refreshing, bass guitar follows drums well. Vocals are powerful, intense and high-pitched, with banshee screams.

Bad sides of this release:
They lacked inspiration while they were working on They Came From The Skies and Lunacy Rising. They Came From The Skies is perfect example of crap riffs, and boring rhythms, and it shows how garage jamming shouldn't sound like too. Lunacy Rising supposed to be very creative progressive metal song, but they could have done it better... much, much better.

2097 A.D.+Solar Wind Riders, Full Speed Ahead!, Breathless, Tokkatoi (Wind Of Fury) and Zone Of Alienation.

Steelwing's Commercial Approach. - 89%

Metal_Jaw, March 16th, 2012

In an earlier review of mine, I glowed about my enthusiasm for Steelwing's debut album "Lords of the Wasteland". Naturally when I found out about a soon to be coming new album, I was pretty excited. I recently got an MP3 of the album (have you seen how hard to get the actual CD is? Fuck that!), and, well, it's certainly different from the first album.

Is it bad? No, but certainly different. The songs on "Lords" were big, solo and guitar-heavy stompers that were strongly composed and intricate; sort of Iron Maiden meets Metal Church with a bit of Helloween sprinkled on top. Here, the "big" feel has been scaled back in favor of more condensed, dare I say, "commercialized" tunes. They're shorter, too; most songs on "Lords" were typically between 5 and 7 minutes, where here most are between 3 1/2-5 minutes on average, with a bit of a NWOBHM vibe to many numbers here as well. It's an interesting change, but inferior to their last attempt.

Most of the crew on "Lords" is here and accounted for. Riley sings his ass off once more here, but changes it up by mixing his traditional metal wailing with a number of sharp and occasionally even gruff-sounding mid-ranged vox. Alex Vega and Robby Rockbag return on their guitars, still shaping themselves in hopeful metal gods as sharp masters of soloing and riffage; yep, they're good. New boy Nic Savage replaces "Skurk" on bass. Again, the bass is buired in the mix but Nic pulls some good and strong rhythm here, arguably a superior replacement for Skurk. Oskar Astedt rounds it out on the kit again, and is probably even better than before as well. His drumming is loud in the mix, with loads of fine double bass work and some nice uses of the snare.

The songs on the first album had a running theme of a "Mad Max"-esque, post-apocalyptic road thriller songs, which I dug. Here, it seemed the post-apocalypse theme continues, this time with themes of chaos, destroyed cities and "restricted zones". Eh, not so much. Sure, it's here, but we also get songs about love/lust and going fast as fuck. Yeah, it's one of those albums. Starting with the silly instrumental "2097 AD", which sounds SO 80's that my jaw dropped when I first heard it, we are launched into a cavalcade of mid-paced and speed metal tunes with various feels to them. "Solar Wind Riders" is a sort of okay starter, but it's speeders like the chorus-heavy arena rocker "Full Speed Ahead!" or the upbeat, even faster "Tokkotai" that make for an enjoyable listen. "Breathless" is okay, but gets pretty damn close to practically being a Def Leppard number; semi-heavy riffage mixed with ooey-gooey sex-love lyrics. The solo-heavy title track is pretty good; it wouldn't have been out of place on "Lords of the Wasteland". "The Running Man" is a personal favorite, almost partly in due to the catchy as fuck main riff. Then we have the album epic, the 10 minute "Lunacy Rising". This is a great one, maybe the best on the album, with speed and soloing a plenty, not to mention sweet time changes and some of Riley's best vocals.

Overall, the more condensed, somewhat commercial sound and less expansive feel do bog this album down a little bit, but it's still a fun listen. There's still gems to be found in here, making for a worthwhile purchase even if you liked the first set better. Give it a chance.

Zone of Alienatioooooon - 76%

Andromeda_Unchained, February 13th, 2012

I had got a fair amount of mileage from Steelwing's debut album, Lord of the Wasteland. I found it to be quality romp in good old fashioned heavy metal and without a doubt hinted at good things. As I'm sure we all know by now Steelwing's sound is much like their countrymen Enforcer's, rooted in the NWOBHM.

I always felt Steelwing offered a good medium between the NWOBHM and more traditional power metal, that medium went double for the production, with perfectly archaic styles of playing heavy metal given big label modern production values. The same can be said on their sophomore effort Zone of Alienation. The first thing that hits you is that this sounds great, "Solar Wind Riders" is a good opener to the album, boasting plenty of dual guitar work and Maiden-esque harmonies, balls-in-a-vice vocals, prominent bass, and simple finger tapping, leg slapping drum work.

The band sound really on the money with "Full Speed Ahead", which is sure to become one of the metal anthems of 2012. As for the rest of Zone of Alienation, Steelwing keeps up the same kind of pedal-to-the-metal attitude which is great, and on the whole this stands as an enjoyable release. The band even keeps it up across the 10 minutes of album closer "Lunacy Rising". My only real gripe is that the material is quite similar, and of a similar quality, which makes it quite hard to pick out standouts and when compared with their debut I don't think Zone of Alienation holds up quite as well. Still this is a good release and fans of the band and style will no doubt want to purchase this pronto. Recommended.

Originally written for

Traditional Heavy Metal is Alive and Well - 90%

TheAntagonist, February 6th, 2012

It’s very hard for me to review a traditional heavy metal album and not reveal my slight bias towards it. Sweden’s own Steelwing keep the metal flame burning bright on their second full-length Zone of Alienation released on Noise Art Records. Charging right out of the gate, this album has the potential to blast you right into the stratosphere.

Harkening back to days of yore when spandex, denim and leather dominated the metal wardrobe, Steelwing manage to merge all that is godly in metal— from the insane riffage of Iron Maiden to the visceral vocals of Judas Priest. The intro track, “2097 AD” sounds like a sci-fi version of the intro to Styx’s “Too Much Time on my Hands”, which leads into the scorching track “Solar Wind Riders”. Vocalist Riley really unleashes the beast on this one with a full on vocal assault. All of the tracks, with the exception of “Breathless” are straight ahead NWOBHM rockers. “Breathless” sounds more like it fits better into the back catalog of an 80’s hair metal band. It seems quite out of place and can easily be skipped.

Production overall is pretty tight and evenhanded. Songs also contain a certain kind of groove orientation as well. Take for instance “They Came From the Skies”, an instrumental which sounds like a mash-up of Iron Maiden’s “Losfer Words” and “Transylvania”. Even more to the point, “Tokkotai (Wind of Fury)” is a galloping, chant along type of a song which will have you shouting, “Tokkotai! Tokkotai! Sayonara, this is goodbye.” If there was one other aspect that could enhance this album it would be in the form of solos that soared just a little higher; this would take Zone of Alienation into the stratosphere. No need to worry though because once it has run it’s course you’ll quickly want to take this stellar rocket ride for another spin.

So at the end of this journey, Zone of Alienation is more than just an homage to a bygone time when metal ruled the world. Seeing as it’s now 2012, you can’t really ask for more metal than this. As long as there are bands like Steelwing, Skullfist and Enforcer ripping out tastefully done heavy metal, we will survive just fine. The metal gods can rest at ease, for with this offering they are appeased.

Originally Written for