Released: 2012, Napalm Records
It finally happened. Phase Two Iron Fire has released a weaker album. I say Phase Two because after their initial five year break (2001-2006) between ON THE EDGE and REVENGE, main-man Steen revamped the lineup and the sound of the band. The bands catalogue can certainly be divided into these eras, the Noise era and the current Napalm Records era. Since 2006 they put out four absolutely crushing Power Metal albums in a row.
Unfortunately the same cannot be said about their newest collection VOYAGE OF THE DAMNED. It's not a poor album by Metal standards but in comparison to their own catalogue it's the weak link. The Iron Fire mascot, our stalwart Metal hero (does he even have name yet?) once again adorns the cover art of this monstrous 13-track, 65 minute album, although I do miss Eric Phillipe's cleaner cover art style that graced the last four Iron Fire Albums.
The album starts promisingly with an ominous instrumental intro which usually (if it is done properly) rips into a fast heavy song, preferably preceded by a mighty scream. Not this time ! We get an experimental, mid-paced song with odd, spoken-word industrial vocal effects that would be more at home on a Samael record. It sounds a bit like a cenobite from the Hellraiser movies. When Steene does sing his voice sounds a bit strained. The keyboards take a much prominent role this time and the guitar solo is odd and atonal.
The whole album has many examples of little sonic surprises that individually don't mean much but collectively display a very different sound and style than one might expect. The lyrical thrust is far more based in Sci-Fi realms than prior albums. The semi-death growl voice is omnipresent on the songs. The guitar tone is a bit more muddy. The songs just don't have that soaring epic feel of the past four records. The shift isn't radical but it's enough to annoy the purists like me.
Disappointing to say the least. There is a lot of competition in the Power Metal realms already in late 201, early 2012 with great albums by Primal Fear, Almah, Iron Mask, Iron Savior, and Astral Doors and all coming out in the past month or so. Eventually, statistically someone has to be the 'average' and this time it's Iron Fire's VOYAGE OF THE DAMNED.