Iron Kobra - Might & Magic - (9/10)
Published on January 26, 2016
Not being one to simply sit by and allow countries like the USA and Sweden to have all the fun with this ongoing craze for a retro-NWOBHM sound, Germany has managed to produce its fair share of newer old school metal acts over the past decade or so, and among the most overtly early 80s oriented of the bunch is an act that goes by the name of Iron Kobra. Sporting cartoonish album art that is heavily reminiscent of the classic Heavy Metal motion picture of 1981, right smack dab in the middle of the NWOBHM craze. They’ve essentially merged all of the exaggerated heavy metal festiveness of Manowar, the high-flying speed and fury of late 70s Judas Priest and early 80s Saxon, as well as some occasional moves into the more forward looking proto-thrash world of Satan and Diamond Head at a few points, and roll it all into one massive party of an experience that is energetic and shameless enough to rival White Wizzard, but actually better in terms of execution and authenticity.
Coming off the heels of an impressive debut in “Dungeon Masters” they’ve put together another winner of a sophomore effort in Might & Magic that takes the notion of camp to a whole new level. Kicking off the album is a brief spoken track called “Words Of Wisdom” that simply states that the following record is to be played on 10, immediately giving the immediate impression that what is to follow is in keeping with the old heavy metal ideal with no apologies for it. The contents that follow are generally a mixture of speeding fury and slightly slower crunching that is about as intense as can be achieved without winding up in early Metallica territory. Extremely busy drumming that models itself after the speed of Motorhead, but also the fill-happy and versatile character of Cozy Powell’s work with Rainbow, bass work that is highly prominent and occasionally indicative of Steve Harris, exaggerated guitar shredding and high-pitched banshee wails are just some of the goodies that paint the fringes of this well oiled metal machine.
From one song to the next, this thing just cooks consistently, albeit switching from a sweltering boil to some occasional explosions that blow the lid off the pan. On the somewhat saner sounding material on here is a series of extremely animated songs that are just way too busy to be treated as mid-tempo, such as the noodling speeder of an opening song “Tomb Of The Stygian King” and the quick paced nod to Number Of The Beast era Iron Maiden “Wut Im Bauch”, which starts sounding almost exactly like “22 Acacia Avenue”. The only places where things get more along the lines of mid-paced are the longer riff machines “Spirit Archer” and “Cult Of The Snake”, both of them also making nods to Maiden but in more of a reserved way that’s closer to select numbers on Piece Of Mind with maybe a hint of Rainbow magic, particularly the fleeting acoustic breaks on the latter song. But the two songs that take the absolute cake for wowing the ears are the two shorter speed/thrashing monsters “Vanguard Of Doom” and “Born To Play On Ten”, both of them speeding fast enough to have matched where James Hetfield was going with his pre-Metallica “Leather Charm” songs, and even have principle guitar riffs that sound very Metallica-like.
Had an album like this one been released back in 1981-82, it would have been hailed as an even more intense answer to just about everything that was going on in the NWOBHM at that time, and would have rivaled a number of even more intense bands just make their way onto the scene. Then again, at times it gets pretty clear that this band is applying a small degree of anachronistic exaggeration to their largely emulative sound, so perhaps it should be put more in the 1983 category even though the production tends a bit closer to what was commonplace earlier on. Nevertheless, even as a present day throwback, this album just kicks ass and refuses to stop. It’s not meant to be taken seriously and anyone who seeks to do so should probably hang a sign around their head that reads along the lines of “I’m a Debbie Downer”. To steal a line from 300, this is not madness, this…is…metal!!!