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.