Iron Fire – Voyage of the Damned

 

With a trepidation inspired from other power rock albums over the years and their dislike, going into the new album from Danish power metalers Iron Fire was not over appealing but that feeling was swiped fiercely away by the mid-point of the second track, Voyage of the Damned reminding that assumptions are never a great thing.  Admittedly the album will probably still not make the end of year top 10 here but that is down to personal prejudice against the classic rock vocal style employed. Founder and band mastermind Martin Steene is a fine and dramatic vocalist with measured control and expression but despite that his style is not one I enjoy generally, but it has to be said that overall he, the band and the album did nothing less than please with its impressive creative power.

The early days of Iron Fire was an explosive entry into the corridors of rock with much acclaim and promise coning from their 2001 debut album Thunderstorm. From that point things became rocky to simplify it with a completely opposite reaction to follow-up release On the Edge. Though fans were still behind them elsewhere things soured with even their own label appearing disinterested which eventually ended with the band being dropped on the eve of the release of the band’s third album. Under this continued downturn the band found itself containing just Steene as people left. A fighter, Steene  through his disappointment built up his determination accumulating in 2006 with a new Iron Fire album in Revenge. Based upon the fictitious fantastic world of the warrior Cain, a man double crossed and betrayer by his closest friends and allies (wonder what inspired that?), the album now with the support of Napalm Records drew in immense acclaim and positive reaction. The band were back and has since risen to higher stronger heights with their albums Blade of Triumph in 2007, To the Grave of 2009, and the following year Metalmorphosized. During this time shows and tours alongside the likes of Demon, U.D.O., Primal Fear, Saxon, WASP, and Doro added more impact and power to the return of Iron Fire.

Released January 27th again via Napalm, Voyage of the Damned is a powder keg of explosive and at times deeply aggressive riffs and fluid soaring melodies. The release draws on many genres bringing elements of black and death metal, doom, thrash, prog rock, and more, all spicing up their own vibrant and stirring sound. On the album the band is more muscular and threatening than on previous releases without losing its skilled melodic touch, the release hitting hard and with venom whilst enticing and inviting with pleasing melodies and ideas. The quartet of Steene, guitarist Kirk Backarach, bassist Martin Lund, and Fritz Wagner on drums have evolved into an even tighter and mightier band with deep flavours to grab most metal fans.

From the atmospheric doom type opening of ‘The Dark Beyond’, the kind of opening so many bands use now to lead into their releases, the album erupts into the folk metal tinged might of ‘Enter Oblivion OJ-666’. With chunky riffs rapping at the ear within soaring symphonic keys the song is prime metal urgency bringing a heavy dominance upon the senses with fluent breaks into scorching melodies and guitar creativity. The album as it unveils its wares is deeply varied to ensure constant attention. From the further brutal riffage of ‘Taken’ to the industrial veined orchestral grace of ‘Slaughter of Souls’,  and the drama of ‘Leviathan’ to the emotive passion of ballad ‘The Final Odyssey’ the band come from different angles and with consistent effect.

The slightly erratic yet excellent ‘Ten Years In Space’ and the dark energy of ‘Realm of Madness’ stand out on the latter part of the album but as a whole the release is impressive. It is the staggering dangerous intense riffs and varied metal intrusions of multiple sources that lift the album beyond the band’s previous releases. This new heavy intensity suits them and when Steene and the band venture into growls and a less polished rock vocal delivery the songs turn into even stronger beasts. Though personal taste has an impact on one aspect the truth is Voyage of the Damned is a mighty album even these ears will visit often.

RingMaster 17/01/2012

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Liberteer – Better To Die On Your Feet Than Live On Your Knees

The current rebellious discontent around the world has a new soundtrack in the brutal and violent Better To Die On Your Feet Than Live On Your Knees from Californian anarchic grindcore metalers Liberteer. The album is a ferocious blast not only across the senses but at the world and its oppressive established hand. It also is a stirring call to arms, a battle cry for all to find their voice, venom, and unique heart to fight.

      Liberteer is the individual project of just one man and his direct and incendiary drive to inform and inspire against the world and its puppeteer’s wrongs, Matthew Widener (Cretin, Citizen, and ex-Exhumed). The harsh and venomous sounds and the even more potent lyrics in some ways continue on from his previous work with Citizen, certainly his fight and attack against the deep wrongs and apathy that blankets the world continues with the same powerful muscle but as Widener recently stated “My thoughts on politics slowly changed over the past six years. In Citizen I had a sense of outrage about our government, but because it still supported the idea of state, it doesn’t make much sense to me now. I’ve come to embrace the ideas of anarchy. The old band name, Citizen, represents a system of exclusion and nationalism, things I can’t stand now, so I had to rename the band and change a lot of things. I think the good things about the music are still there—the thematic, major-key riffs, the d-beats and blasts—but the message is now pure.”
     Released January 31st via Relapse Records the anarchic Better To Die On Your Feet Than Live On Your Knees is a relentless battering and arousal which rather than leave one a quivering wreck inspires and ignites passion within. It certainly is not an easy ride and at times as the crimson drips from the ear one staggers back under its weight of its grindcore/hardcore/punk/thrash might. The sounds are multi veined with enterprising elements though this is often veiled by the attack from the rebellion’s core and its deeply satisfying artillery of intrusive grindcore sounds.

The album opens with  ‘The Falcon Cannot Hear The Falconer ‘ and its burning fuse which leads to a triumphant declaration of aural war,  the track and subsequent album crushing and defusing senses with pummelling intrusive riffs, scything delicious guitars and an array of glorious insertions from mandolins, banjos and horns. The track is the meeting place for the fight ahead and the introduction to a blistering tumultuous album. The majority of the songs range between a single minute to two but all hit with an intensity that scars without destroying the attention and focus for what is ahead. The flow of the album, is fluid too, each track barely taking a gulp of breath before thrusting the next sonic excursion for the ear into the face and though often one loses track of which song one is lost in multiple plays soon makes each individual identity clear and recognisable.

Consisting of seventeen destructive tracks the consistency is impressively high. All the songs permeate and welcomingly manipulate for the deepest satisfaction though at times one wonders if it is just enjoyment or the trigger of hidden emotions the release inspires that eagerly welcomes its scarring intent. To be honest it is both as the album is an incredible release that if it works for you will stay a close friend for all time. As mentioned all tracks are extremely strong but some go that little further in connection and raucous pleasing. ‘Build No System’ is a manic maelstrom of thoughtfully melded sounds and confirms that for all the mayhem and destructive intent and sounds scorching the senses they are all carefully structured and put together. ‘Rise Like Lions After Slumber’ with its glorious mandolin over an abusive wall of sound, ‘Better To Die On Your Feet Than Live On Your Knees’ with a delicious grumpy bass sound, the staggeringly brilliant ‘Usurious Epitaph‘with its inspiring grooved march into the bile soaked call to arms of ‘Revolution’s Wick Burning Quick’, plus the symphonic laced ‘Sweat For Blood’, all excite with something extra.

     Better To Die On Your Feet Than Live On Your Knees is a rapid fire rampaging anarchic statement politically and musically, a release that deserves and will get massive acclaim and attention. Liberteer has spoken are you listening?

RingMaster 17/01/2012

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