iron-fireStill keeping alive the fine tradition of German Power/Heavy Metal are Iron Fire…from Denmark. Well, it’s near enough, and they are no strangers to the scene either, this being their eighth full-length studio album and first for Crime Records. The particular fine tradition of German Power/Heavy Metal I’m on about is the kind championed by Rage primarily with dashes of Paragon, Gamma Ray, Mystic Prophecy etc…but with a bit from the Swedes chucked in too like Hammerfall, Steel Attack and Abba (OK maybe not the last one…)…you get the idea. Also in that fine tradition, bassist/vocalist/main-man Martin Steene has really gone through his fair share of guitarists and drummers over the years, but he has now settled on a good strong line-up and remains a constant driving force for the band.

Now I must confess that I haven’t heard an entire Iron Fire album since around about 2006. I have to admit I was finding that each album was sounding rather similar to it’s predecessor. Probably a little harsh on reflection as I now realize that this is kind of what Iron Fire are about – they found their niche (Power Metal, 1997 to about 2004), they like that style, they are good at it and that’s what their fans want from them. So with that in mind “Among The Dead” is a fine addition to their strong back catalogue. It has all tempos and variations of Power and Heavy Metal, some great riffs, fabulous lead-work (check out mid-paced ‘Hammer Of The Gods’ and the quicker ‘Tornado Of Sickness’ for great examples of both!). It also shares a crunchy, modern production similar to the latest Rage offering.

Vocally…well, it’s a bit all over the place like Steene doesn’t quite know what tactic to take. However, this does make for a varied delivery as he switches from a gravelly low voice into a crisp mid-range, to varying degrees depending on the mood of each song. Personally I could do without the occasional grunted style he has a bash at (It’s not his strongest vocal style) and would be more than happy to see the back of the Metalcore-type shouts that creep into ‘Made To Suffer’ (ironically!) and ‘The Last Survivor’ among others, bringing nothing to already decent tracks and smacking of trying to appeal to “the kids”. I do like the vocals and overall style of ‘Ghost From The Past’ which echos Iced Earth both vocally and musically – a great track.

And that song is where I personally like the album to finish. Ten good powerful Metal songs full of energy and memorability. The album doesn’t finish there unfortunately. There is a rather cheesy power-ballad that just isn’t my thing at all and a totally pointless cover of Metallica’s ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’. Iron Fire bring nothing new or innovative to the song, just plodding through it, emulating the original, so why bother recording it? OK, you can play a Metallica song, big deal, so can a local Metal covers band at a backstreet pub in any city anywhere. Maybe like with previous albums I’m missing what the band are trying to do. And there really is NO need for me to finish the review on a negative, so I won’t, as Iron Fire once again ably deliver Heavy/Power Metal as well as anyone else around and the change of label has rejuvenated them, not deflated them. Their fans will not be disappointed.

(7/10 Andy Barker)