Iron Fire - Beyond The Void - (9/10)
Published on February 11, 2019
Denmark’s finest are on a roll! After releasing the bonafide masterpiece Voyage Of The Damned back in 2012, Iron Fire faded into obscurity for a brief period before striking back with the gritty Among The Dead in 2016. Now exhibiting a new-found love for stripped back, raw, focused power metal, the Danish trio are ready to pursue this direction further with Beyond The Void. This might be one of my most anticipated albums of the year because these guys literally never disappoint. Even last year’s smorgasbord of oddities, Dawn Of Creation, was an absolute hoot. Not only does this new LP display their penchant for grittiness, but injects it with a dose of theatrical pomp which results in a truly dynamic album. The utterly phenomenal album art made me think this might be a Stephen King-related concept album, but alas, this was not to be! This is the next logical step from Among The Dead, improving upon almost every aspect of that album and elevating their sound to another level.
I adore this band because, no matter which direction their albums take, everything is performed with pure sincerity. Mainman Martin Steene has a heart of iron, and his genuine devotion to the ways of heavy metal definitely shines through both his vocal performance and songwriting. The guy is utterly inimitable, literally. No one else’s voice comes anywhere close to his. I’m really happy he’s continued to occasionally utilise his death grunts, as they’ve only improved over the years. Every time he accents a riff with an ‘UGH! or ‘OOOH!’, it makes me grin and nod approvingly. I’m still hoping for more full-on growled sections like in “Among The Dead” or “Slaughter Of Souls” but I’ll take what I can get! For the rest of the album, Steene sounds gloriously abrasive, even in the album’s lighter moments. He is frequently multi-layered providing a pleasingly thick vocal texture; this is felt most in the chorus of the dramatic “Judgement Day” – surely in the running for ‘ballad of the year’ (but what the hell’s so special about 1998?).
Ginger wizard Kirk Backarach, the other star-member of IF, has brought a plentiful bag of tough-ass riffs with him. From the very first blaring chug of the title-track, through the hard-rocking “One More Bullet”, to the thrashtastic “To Hell & Back” – this is riff heaven. The grisly, downtuned approach Kirk has adopted, and subsequently developed, since 2007ish is exactly where this band should be. But above the swampy buzzsaw of the rhythm guitar, there are often wailing shredding leads which create an endless layer of sound to get your ears around. Original IF drummer Gunnar Olsen is also a reliable pillar of excellence, constantly switching grooves (often in the middle of a riff!) whilst never losing control of the style. These guys work brilliantly as a trio – each of their personalities shining through with plenty of charisma. Just listen to the anthemic “Final Warning”. With its crushing main riff, blazing solo and hymnal chorus, it’s the sound of a band working in perfect harmony, and one of my favourite songs of 2019 so far.
Iron Fire circa 2019 is a completely different beast from Iron Fire circa 2000, and that makes me very happy indeed. The Danes have always strived to be heavier and more ‘metal’ than before and that is displayed overtly on Beyond The Void. But an increase in heaviness and aggression comes with no sacrifice in good songwriting. Every track on this LP is a memorable anthem, perhaps minus the closing number “Out Of Nowhere” which comes across as a little unmemorable. You’d be better off stopping the disc after the menacing monster “The Devil’s Path”. When all is said and done, this is a fantastic album from a severely underrated act. It pushes the extreme boundaries of power metal whilst remaining loyal to the sub-genre’s core. Check out the brilliantly understated “Bones & Gasoline” then try the hard-as-nails “Old Habits Die Hard” to experience what I mean by pushing the envelope but staying stylistically loyal. Always driving forward with force, always having fun, always staying metal as fuck. Thanks for not making us wait too long for this one, guys!
As Martin Steene always says: “Hail to the power, spirit and might of heavy metal!” Gotta love a bit of cheese…