Title:Black As Death
Genre:Neo-Classical Power Metal / Hard Rock
IRON MASK, the other band of MAGIC KINGDOM guitarist Dushan Petrossi, has been around for several years. Since 2002 four albums have been made, starting with “Revenge Is My Name” (which Dushan considers a demo), followed by “Hordes Of The Brave” (a very good one, if I may say so) and “Shadow Of The Red Baron”, which was the first album that made me aware of IRON MASK, or at least, their music. Since the release of this third album, I’ve seen the band at work a few times and I can honesty say I liked it a lot! Now, I already was aware of Dushan’s skills in MAGIC KINGDOM, but it’s of course different when you see the man (or men, since we’re talking about a band here) at work on stage.
Since the release of MAGIC KINGDOM’s “Symphony Of War” album in 2010, Dushan has been hard at work writing the new IRON MASK album, “Black As Death”. For that he also found a new label home: from Lion Music to AFM Records. “Black As Death” came out on the 16th December 2011. The line-up now has Mark Boals as frontman. I’m not familiar with his skills or discography, though I do know he sang on the GENIUS (an Italian Progressive Rock/Metal project) albums, which I have in my collection. The main difference between IRON MASK and MAGIC KINGDOM is that the latter focuses more on Power Metal, while the former on Hard Rock, both with a Neo-Classical touch.
“Black As Death” contains twelve tracks, beginning with an intro called “From Light Into The Dark”, from acoustic to electric. This sounds very nice, very tight as well, rising to a climax to burst out in “Black As Death”. Ramy gives his all with the furiouos beatings on the drums. The riffing is heavy and the whole is slowly built before the song really takes off. The guitar layers are legio, which is a bit of a must, as Dushan is alone in this department. The versers pound onwards, led by Mark Boals’s powerful vocals. The chorus on the other hand is melodic, catchy and easy to sing along to. There is also a choir-ish bridge. All these elements combined with what I can recall from the gigs… I can almost see the guys play this song on stage. Around halfway the spotlights are on the guitar. A melodic lick and the rhythm guitar betraying the fact that a faster part is due soon. This sort of occurs afterwards with Ramy (drums) adding accents. This paves the way for another solo round where the guitar input does stand out, obviously. The pace is then also a bit higher. First quality all the way, music and vocals, be it Mark or Roma.
“Broken Hero” is a Neo-Classical Hard Rock song, the kind of songs that set IRON MASK apart from MAGIC KINGDOM, and comparable to e.g. AT VANCE. The focus lies on melody, of course, while the rhythmic power is a bit lighter than before. Drums are important, though. Ramy can’t sit still, has to add extra hits and fills, if only to make the song more powerful. Or some shameless self-promotion, hahaha. He also did this at Frostrock 2010, so I can clearly see him doing the same stuff in this song. But it’s also an indication, in my opinion, that he had a great time recording this song. The verses are humble at first, then a bit more powerful. The whole sounds quite 80’s, but with the modern production. The guitar solo is very well done and somehow you could ask yourself, is Dushan an underestimated guitarist?
Time for some Power Metal then. Here’s “Feel The Fire”, a furious and speedy Neo-Classical track. Comparable to, for example, STRATOVARIUS (and similar). The harpsichord keyboards, the wild guitarwork… Mark Boals also sings with more power and passion. It’s simply amazing! Of course, the band won’t slow down in the chorus. Excellent material! and the solo moment is where Dushan is completely out of himself, hahaha. IRON MASK has a sort of tradition to add historical themes to the tracklist. See e.g. “Alexander The Great”, “Shadow Of The Red Baron” and more. Here it’s “Genghis Khan”. So you get acustomed sound to create the right setting. Slow, hymnic Metal then falls in. Instrumental at first – though the music does dominate in quantity -, later Mark picks up the microphone. This sounds really majestic, bombastic, epic!
“God Punishes, I Kill” takes us to the church (or Church, if you mean the institution), hence the church choir in the beginning. Symphonic help with the atmosphere. The power outburst is nigh and when that happens, Neo-Classical (again via the harpsichord and guitar) midtempo Metal is on offer. The verses are not that fast at all, though they contain heavy guitarwork and powerful drumming. The singing is also lower, though rises in the pre-chorus to come out fully in the hymnic chorus, which is again very catchy! The choir returns later on and a spooky moment is created. The guitar solo is inline with the overall rhythm and melodies. This all steadily grows in power and bombast and there is even room for a keyboard solo. Even if this isn’t a positive song towards religion, it does seem God (or the gods, whatever you believe) inspired Dushan for this song. Or, quality assured!
“Rebel Kid” is one of those more simple tracks, those that rock! See IRON MAIDEN, HAMMERFALL and similar to get an idea. Melody is again important, but the song must foremost rock. Atmospheric backing helps make the song fuller. The chorus sounds very familiar, but I can’t put my finger on it. Still, all is well in this rather linear track. Bombast, epicness and fury are key terms for “Blizzard Of Doom”. It’s not about Doom Metal, rather the blizzard is the main word here. Fast, powerful and furious Neo-Classical Metal with the guitar and keyboards working in unison. Mark even reaches for the higher notes in the chorus. The solo is inline with the overall aggression of the song. I couldn’t help but wonder how Dushan remembers it all. Anyway, another killer track, no doubt.
And so the ebb and flow continues, as “The Absence” is also a Neo-Classical Hard Rock song, very much similar to AT VANCE. It’s quite welcome after the blizzard of before. The solos come from the guitar and keyboards. At the end of this there’s a crazy little part, which sounds weird and almost out of place, if you ask me. But it’s trivial here. “Magic Sky Requiem” is the second ballad on the album, the other being “Broken Hero”. It’s also more sad, dramatic than “Broken Hero”. This time it’s not Mark on vocals, but Göran Edman who proves here he was a good choice for this softer song. The bridge or pre-chorus introduces the organ, while the chorus itself emphasises the drama of the lyrics. Or wait, maybe it’s not about drama or sadness, but humility, being humble and grateful. I’ll need the lyrics to verify, though. It’s easy to mistake, to interprete things in the wrong way.
“Nosferatu”, not exactly the best looking guy, also made it onto the album. The power of old returns, but the guitar melody in the intro sounds strange, almost false. Or is it? What follows is a furious song, almost like RHAPSODY’s “Holy Thunderforce”. The demonic vocals have been applied here, for the better, of course. And Ramy even gets to blastbeat his way through the song. The verses are hymnic and feature Mark, luckily. And so the music increases in speed towards the chorus, where hell is unleashed. Fitting with this structure are the wild solos. Last but not least, there’s “When All Braves Fall, beginning with twinkling, spacey sounds. Almost like in a Science Fiction film. Midtempo 80’s Metal follows and especially the chorus is reminiscent of that period. Like the rest of the songs, from start to finish, a job well done!
IRON MASK’s previous two album were/are very good, very entertaining, very qualitative Neo-Classical Metal. Live the band also delivers the goods. My expectations for “Black As Death” were not easily fulfilled at first. I had to play the album a few times, but then it was pure heaven! A delight for the ears! It’s hard to compare, but I dare say this is most likely IRON MASK’s best album to date. Therefore I can only conclude with the words: superhighly recommended!!!
- From Light Into The Dark
- Black As Death
- Broken Hero
- Feel The Fire
- Genghis Khan
- God Punishes, I Kill
- Rebel Kid
- Blizzard Of Doom
- The Absence
- Magic Sky Requiem
- When All Braves Fall
Mark Boals – vocals
Roma Siadletski – vocals/shouts
Dushan Petrossi – guitars
Vassili Moltchanov – bass
Mats Olausson – keyboards
Ramy Ali – drums