I still recall having the first EP of British INTENSE and being rather disappointed by the back then (1997, “Dark Season”), so that their full-length debut “Second Sight” back in 2004 passed me by pretty much unnoticed. Now “As Our Army Grows” reaches me in 2007, 16 years after the band was founded they manage to release their second album only, a welcome difference to acts that release three CDs in three years and then follow it up with a live album on top of it…
Anyways, the first band coming to mind upon stuffing the CD into my player was ICED EARTH, for the riffing and rhythm work on opener “Anger Of The Ancients” reminds me a lot of Jon Schaffer and the boys around their “Burnt Offerings” and “The Dark Saga” albums, a driving song with good, catchy riffing, but still a lot of power, add to that Sean Hetherington’s a bit deeper voice and you have a strong kick in your sit-upon right off the bat. So are INTENSE a fitting snack between ICED EARTH albums? Yes and no. Yes, because more than once they remind me of the Americans, the ballad “Insanity’s Call” bears a big resemblance to “I Died For You” actually, but no, because the Brits have a bit of trouble to get this album over the whole distance, so to say, as not all the songs manage to keep the same level.
In terms of production and execution there is absolutely no room for criticism, as Nick Palmer and Dave Peak generate nice power on the guitars, while Neil Ablard on drums and Stephen Brine on bass form a tight and solid rhythm foundation that the songs can be built on, while Sean Hetherington, as mentioned, does not have the usual high Power Metal voice, but a bit more grit to his chords, which adds up. “Our Last Hope” bears a more epic touch, while “Temptress” is very catchy, includes some female vocals and also shows nice variety. And at the end we get a trilogy (doesn’t that remind us of a certain US band as well? ;) in “Chronicles Of The New Flesh”, which covers the whole spectrum from slow-paced to speedy and everything in-between, showing that there is a lot of potential.
It is good to hear that Great Britain continues to produce traditional quality Metal, “As Our Army Grows” might not be an absolute high-flyer, but it is a more than solid album that will quench the thirst of Power Metal fans and that they sound more like old ICED EARTH than ICED EARTH themselves, you be the judge, I for my part like it.
(Online April 18, 2007)