After a good 4 years of having his original band being stuck in limbo, Martin Steene had only one thing on his mind after learning the dark ways of the force with MERCYFUL FATE and KING DIAMOND members in his later project FORCE OF EVIL, and that was “Revenge”. The target of his vengeance were his former self that penned the half-hearted Heavy Metal mixed with Glam Rock flop “On The Edge”, and all of the naysayers who declared his brainchild dead to the world and unable to make any sort of comeback. Like all young Vikings not yet card carrying veterans in the fine art of bludgeoning one’s enemies with intrigue, Steene’s retribution is a little overemotional and uneven, but definitely lethal when compared against a host of really poor Power Metal albums that came out both the year before and early in the year that this was put out.
Apart from Steene, the band that is IRON FIRE is a completely different beast here, with a completely new crop of musicians with varying styles from the original incarnation of the band. The general songwriting approach is largely unchanged as the unique sounding front man is still the chief songwriter, but the rest of what is on here is far more aggressive than what was heard before. The epic and “Keepers Part 1” HELLOWEEN sound of “Thunderstorm” has been replaced with a much meatier riff set, often conjuring up comparisons to MANOWAR and early SAXON, while at other times bordering on Speed/Thrash ala MEGADETH. The lyrics have also traded in a lot of the fantasy/epic trappings of the old days for something much closer to the angry mixture of warfare and Metal worship that the NWOBHM bands, which first inspired this sort of music, held dear.
Right from the intro of the catchy opener “Wings Of Rage”, which sounds like a slightly more melodic version of a late 80s MEGADETH riff, a much darker and heavier variant on Power Metal is established. Other fairly Thrash-like moments can be heard on “Mind Machine” and “Break The Spell”, albeit more of the slower tempo kind you’d hear out of the early 90s. The choruses are still catchy to the point of being arena worthy, but what surrounds them is much heavier than usual fare for most non-German Power/Speed Metal of late. There are some songs with choruses and riffs that reach back to the straight line fast and catchy approach of “Thunderstorm”, such as “Alone In The Dark” and “Whirlwind Of Doom”, but even these songs have a much harder edged feel to them.
There are a few noticeable standouts that deviate from the new model present here. “Savage Prophecy” has this really light piano intro and epilogue that scream obligatory ballad, but then the thing just erupts into a fit of catchy, down tempo goodness that screams straight up MANOWAR styled Heavy Metal glory. “Ice-cold Arion” is something of an oddball ballad, not an overtly dry sounding 80s ballad like “Angel Of Light”, but more of a slightly mechanical sounding take on an EDGUY song with a better chorus. The best song on here, which also breaks from the model, is the one song from the “Underworld” demo that Steene put together during the band’s failed resurrection attempt in 2003 “Ironhead”. It’s a bit formulaic and closer to the band’s older sound, but that galloping riff set and those cliché vocals about a biker living wild and free just bring out the inner JUDAS PRIEST fan boy in me every time.
If “On The Edge” cost this band any level of credibility among European Power Metal enthusiasts, this has more than regained it. Steene has a much more technically proficient and experienced set of musicians bring his music to life now, and it shows with the flawless execution of every riff, beat, and elaborate shred solo on here. If you’re not familiar with the band and like the German variant of Speed Metal from the mid-80s in the model of RUNNING WILD and GRAVE DIGGER, this album and their latest “To The Grave” will definitely agree with you.
(Online May 28, 2009)