Well, Iron Savior have been exposed to a level of criticism that many of the other bands I have reviewed haven’t experienced. See, I’ve been listening to this at home, whereas many of the other albums I listen to bounce off into my ears during my commute to and from work. The “advantage” of listening to Iron Savior at home is that I have my 12 year old to co-criticise with me. His assessment? “When I first heard it, I thought it was wimpy, but now I think it’s pretty catchy”. Read to the end to see if this was also my assessment…
Those of you who don’t know, Iron Savior are a sci-fi obsessed German Power Metal band, formed in 1996 by Kai Hansen (he of Gamma Ray, among others), and the drummer from Blind Guardian, but since the early 2000’s, the only original member is Piet Sielck (also ex-Gamma Ray). To be honest though, if you’re a fan of German power metal, then you’ll be reassured that this is very much the general blueprint for the music to come, though with a slightly harder edge than many of their luminaries. I reviewed their “Megatropolis” album a few years back, and was eager to listen to this, being bowled over by their enthusiasm and catchy riffing.
I have to say, “Titancraft” is just as you might expect it to be. The vocals are clean, and soaring, and -yes – a little cheesy. Piet has an excellent voice, whether used on the more aggressive numbers, such as opener “Titancraft”, or on the multiple-key-changing fist-pumping anthem “Seize the Day”. “Beyond the Horizon”, with the grinding opening riff (and keyboards – ahem) and ferocious drumming is a brooding effort, and probably the album highlight for me, with the ever tasteful twin-guitar attack of Sielck and Kustner.
Now yes, there are a couple of problems here and there. Firstly, if you can’t tolerate Power Metal, you won’t find much here to cling on to. The accompanying blurb mentions that the band set out to emulate their NWOBHM heroes in Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. To be honest, I don’t find much of either here – but this is very much in the vein of really well played, well put together power metal. If you can’t cope with your metal having two settings (“gallop” and “power ballad”), and wince at any positivity in your music, then this won’t be your kind of thing. Personally, I find the Eurovision a bit of a guilty pleasure, and there’s a fair bit here to connect to that European optimism and sense of drama. There are more key changes than a locksmith at a dementia home, that’s for sure, and the constant “swell” of the keyboard under the riffing started to get on my nerves right about track six.
The production is spot on, though, and the guitar sound is absolutely killer – loads of razor sharp clarity and being bright without over-polished. I defy you to find a better sounding power metal album this year – this seems to be about perfect to me for this kind of metal.
So – did my 12 year old get this review right? I reckon he did. It is very catchy, and it has all of the essential tropes that you’d expect with the genre, but it’s delivered with such astonishing conviction and optimism that it’s hard for even the hardest and grimmest of hearts not to warm to it, just a little. It’s not my thing, in general, but once again I have found myself enjoying Iron Savior as the exception rather than the rule. Good effort.
(6.5/10 Chris Davison)