In the year 1996, the genre of melodic Power Metal was all but dead to the world. The alleged Alternative Rock/Grunge craze that had seemingly come out of nowhere had sputtered out almost as quickly as it had come into being, and we were left with a rag tag group of retro RAMONES/SEX PISTOLS punk movement spearheaded by the likes of the OFFSPRING and GREEN DAY, and an up and coming fusion of Punk and Ska. But Metal never really dies, it merely takes vacations before going on the next rampage.
Fresh off the first GAMMA RAY album where he had become the unwilling frontman, Kai Hansen teamed up with record producer and former bandmate from long ago Piet Sielck, and BLIND GUARDIAN veteran and drummer Thomen Stauch. Though this was merely conceived as a one time solo project by all parties involved, and a means for Piet Sielck to finally record some of the music that he written long ago (back before HELLOWEEN was formed), what resulted was something so phenomenal that it could not be kept as a mere anomaly/experiment in the metal genre.
This album is unique not only in that it was the first IRON SAVIOR release, but also in the varied approach to song writing. Among these many compositions are the typical high tempo cookers such as "Atlantis Falling", "Brave New World", "Riding On Fire" and "Protect Law". However, we also have some rather interesting retro Metal songs such as the title track of the album, "Assailant" and "Children of the Wasteland". In addition, we have the slightly more progressive Power Metal tracks like the mid-temp and melodic "Watcher In The Sky", the PINK FLOYDish ballad "Break It Up", and the quasi-epic anthem "For The World". Rounding out the track list is the album's prelude "The Arrival", which functions well as an overture to which any live performance would begin, and the cover song "This Flight Tonight" by NAZARETH.
The one flaw in this album that keeps it from being absolutely perfect is its production, an issue that would later be fixed with the entrance of the classic line-up of IRON SAVIOR. The guitar sound is a bit too raw at times, mostly on the faster tracks. The bass is barely present in many cases, probably due to the fact that Piet Sielck was pulling quadruple duty by singing lead vox, playing guitar, keyboards, and bass. Although the function of the bass as a support instrument is important, the way it is de-emphasized in the lion's share of the songs is reminiscent of METALLICA's "And Justice For All".
The musicianship at work here is where the true strength lies. Thomen Stauch's drumming with BLIND GUARDIAN has become the stuff of legends, and his abilities are as present as ever here. Piet and Kai do a fine job on the lead and rhythm guitar end, giving us some rather impressive riffs. And the combined compositional efforts of Kai and Piet, though at times a bit inconsistent, are a clear indication of the direction that Power Metal would ultimately head in.
In conclusion, this album is the blue print by which several bands in the German Metal scene would soon reclaim the majesty of Metal but a few years later. The speed, the technique, the melody and the storylines that would spawn a new era of Heavy Metal concept albums. The storyline in this one would develop into a series of excellent Power Metal albums, all bringing the trappings of Science Fiction into a new era of JUDAS PRIEST influenced greatness. I recommend this album highly to all Power Metal and Traditional Metal fans alike.
(Online December 26, 2011)