What's this? New MANILLA ROAD? Nay, 'tis IRONSWORD from Portugal and old friends. I didn't like the debut due to the weak vocals, now I'm all the more surprised by their second album "Return Of The Warrior". The vocals have improved, though Tann still sounds rather odd.
The opener "Ironsword" is a band hymn, fast-paced and "true", but nothing extraordinary. However, the following track "Beginning Of The End" leaves me without words. The song genuinely sounds like MANILLA ROAD during "Mystification" times. During the chorus, the vocals sound exactly like Mark Shelton's, incredible. The structure of the song too, the guitars. Even MANILLA ROAD haven't managed to put such an absolutely kickass song on their last four albums. O you steel gods from Portugal, I kneel with awe before you and bow my head!
"Nemedian Chronicles" is the name of another killer song which sounds so epic and grand and shows me what I've been missing for so long...a band like IRONSWORD, which actually is able to fill the shoes of the old obscure/epic gods. Ok, the vocals, a mixture of J.D. Kimball and Lemmy Kilmister, really is a matter of taste, they sound deep and raw and sottish...yeah, that's a perfect fit – never mind a trained three octave voice, the man's a barbarian! Barbaric Metal is what they call their style, and that's nothing for highly sophisticated folk or the music police. Technically speaking this music may not be anything special, but regarding its emotionality it cannot be beaten.
Only few bands get to create such an obscure, epic and sweeping warrior mood...I am absolutely thrilled, and there is not a single weak part on this album. Everything is right, the vintage (yep!) production, the simple, ingenious cover and the killer songs, scaring every new age Metalhead witless...May the lords of light guide their way... (Online November 26, 2004)