‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, a very, very old mantra that has stood the test of time and remained valid to this very day. If something works and functions as it should do, why do you need to tweak it and alter it? Well, in the case of heavy metal, you bloody well don’t!
Take a drummer who can hit the skins with immeasurable force, a bassist who lives only for the rhythm (let’s face it, he’s not going to get the girls is he? It’s the rules!), one or two guitarists who have fingers faster than the speed of light and riffs that can kill weaker men, add in a vocalist with a lower range that can flatten whole mountainous vistas and split the highest peak asunder and a high range that can shatter crystal goblets at one hundred yards and you have the identikit for a metal band that can turn legs to jelly and melt the coldest hearts, it may not be complex or challenging but, that’s not the point when it comes to metal bands, keep it simple and very loud and you could be onto a winner!
One band who have followed that heavy metal blueprint are German metallers Iron Savior who released their highly anticipated new release ‘Rise of the Hero’ on March 18th. Formed in 1996, originally as a studio project, by Piet Sielck, Kai Hansen (Gamma Ray) and Thomen Stauch (Blind Guardian), Iron Savior released their debut album, the self- titled ‘Iron Savior’, in 1997 and, despite numerous line up changes that, from 2001, left Sielck as the only surviving founder member, went on to release a further five albums up to 2007’s ‘Megatropolis’ after which the band took a four year hiatus before returning with renewed vigour and 2011 release ‘The Landing’. Joining Piet Sielck (vocals, guitar) on this new release are Joachim ‘Piesel’ Kuestner (guitar), Thomas Nack (drums) and Jan S. Eckert (bass).
After a recent plethora of progressive rock reviews, I was looking forward to getting to grips with something that would just ‘blow the body doors off’ and give my deeper intellect a rest, the promotional write up for Rise of the Hero spoke of ‘A full dose of heavy, power metal to the max!’, well, add that exclamation mark at the end and, what more am I waiting for?
The album actually starts with a lush keyboard introduction, like something from a Whitesnake gig in the late 80’s or early 90’s, Ascendence rises up driven by a fluid guitar, okay, where’s the blinking heavy metal guys?!
Oh, there it is! Like a pile driver right hook from a heavyweight boxer, you are stunned by the ferocity of the intro to Last Hero, a ratcheting riff, stuttering and forceful and a thunderous rhythm section batter you into a semblance of submission before Sielck’s rough, gruff vocal rides roughshod over the top of you. Whoa there boys! This is classic metal that smacks of long hair and leather pants including a superb, overblown chorus, add in the fluent, fluid, burning solo and I’m happy as a pig in the proverbial! After that introduction to the power heavy metal of Iron Savior, you are given no respite whatsoever, Revenge of the Bride carries on in a similar vein if, this time, becoming even more of a homage to 80’s indulgence epitomised by W.A.S.P and other larger than life bands. The riff is hard and dangerous and Sielck does his best impression of Blackie Lawless with an almost echoing timbre to his voice, especially on the slick chorus. This blessed hell ride peaks with a superb solo that swirls and fires deadly licks at your head, leaving you in state of panic, hit by a pure metal thunderbolt.
I asked for heavy metal and, boy, have I got it, next track From Far Beyond Time has a gun crack riff that pistol whips you before the vocals come riding in from out of the sun to pulverise you into a heavy metal hell hole, I’m left with an inane grin on my face as the seriously catchy chorus is delivered by the rugged vocals, very nicely harmonised, to be said. The solo that follows is pure speed metal, fretwork so fast it’s a blur, leaving your mind twisted and in pieces, this track is metal, pure and simple, well executed and with no frills whatsoever. Well, so far we have had quality heavy metal, there is no doubt about it and the party continues with Burning Heart, a track that takes its foot off your throat to let you breathe. Don’t get me wrong, the band have not turned soft one little bit, the ferocity and power are still there but, a little bit of smoothness has leaked into the mix, like Saxon performing ‘Ride Like The Wind’, there is a melodic edge to this track. The riffing is less frantic, the vocals more mellow and the dial turned down one notch, from 11 to 10. Like a band proving they have more than one string to the bow, even if they are related, Iron Savior deliver a slice of a more commercial metal and, it’s good.
Just as if the band said “Sod that, let’s stop pussyfooting around”, Thunder From The Mountains ramps the savagery back up to maximum assault. With a frenetic pace that never lets up, the riff is delivered direct to your solar plexus and the drummer would surely never pass a drugs test, his drumming is hyperactive and frenzied. The vocals are delivered with a maniacal glee and I only just kept up with the rabidly fast solo. Amidst all this heavy metal madness, the choruses are always melodic and impressively delivered, like a calming influence on the metal maelstrom around them. Iron Warrior’s impressively addicted riff delivers a track that harks back to the days of Dio and Black Sabbath, moody and measured, we are running the whole gamut of metal genres here. A melting pot of thunderous, potent drumming, roaring guitars and compelling vocals, this track is one of the best yet, highlighted by the epic guitar solo that would be worth the entry fee all on its own, add in another wicked chorus and it’s another, quality track.
Let’s venture off into the world of mystical creatures and fantastical adventures shall we?, with a title like Dragon King, you are going nowhere else. A riff that is mountain sized and would wake anybody’s Gods thunders into the arena, dragging along a mighty bass line and towering drums. The whole vibe of the song is methodical and deliberate and Sielck’s vocal performance is solid and potent. I’m sure you don’t normally get as many quality guitar solos as are being delivered on this album but, guess what, we’ve got another devilish beauty of a solo here. The customary splendid chorus rounds out my favourite track on the album. Utterly unexpected and completely out of left field, Iron Savior’s cover of Mando Diao’s ‘Dance With Somebody’ was originally recorded To become a bonus track for the limited edition but the band like it so much, they made it a track on the regular album. I must admit, I think it’s awesome, a nice pensive opening flows into an absolutely brilliant rendition of the chorus, the only way I can describe this song is ‘funk-heavy, disco metal’ and, no, I haven’t been taking illegal substances either. It’s a feel good romp that will have you out of your chair and boogying with the best of them and includes a great twin guitar solo that rocked my socks off.
Back to the day job, Firestorm is a solid power metal nugget that has all the requisites, blistering riffs, sizzling licks and incessant drumming that, culminate in a song that epitomises the genre. Sturdy, focused vocals and a nice, melodic chorus complete another creditable track. The only slower song on the album, The Demon, whilst in isolation a solid track, seems somewhat out of place when compared to the metal fest that constitutes the rest of the album. Whether it was a conscious decision or just happened to be, it has it’s highlights, which include some nice guitar work but, I found it ponderous and one dimensional, a disappointing song in the light of what has gone before.
After the slight dip in form of the previous track, the last instalment of this heavy metal thunder is a return to metal mashing power, Fistraiser has a monster of a riff that’s shrouded in swelling licks and thunders into view like a runaway train, aided and abetted by Sielck’s vocal which was born to sing heavy metal tracks, it has a energy and forcefulness to it that is highly addictive. The smoking, white hot solo that is a piece of twin guitar heaven is a final flourish of metal brilliance and helps bring this convincing track and album to a close.
Rise of the Hero is an enjoyable heavy metal romp and a powerhouse album that doesn’t break any boundaries or bring anything new to the party because, it doesn’t have to! It is heavy metal, pure and simple and, in the majority, it works mighty fine thank you, doff your caps Iron Savior and take a bow.