It’s been two years since the last IRON MASK album, i.e. “Black As Death”. See my review here. That album got a lot of positive press, showed that the band is among the best in Europe. Mark Boals (ex-YNGWIE MALMSTEEN) delivered more than the goods. And since all went so well, he was asked to also sing on the follow-up, “Fifth Son Of Winterdoom”, which is just out, again via AFM Records.
Keyboards were this time played by – and here I’ll need the booklet to be sure, because the press text and Metal-Archives.com are contradicting each other – either Andreas Lindhal (AFM press text), who played the keys on “Shadow Of The Red Baron”, but also worked with MANTICORA, WUTHERING HEIGHTS, and more, or it was Mats Olausson, who played the keyboards on “Black As Death”, and has worked with YNGWIE MALMSTEEN, EVIL MASQUERADE and more.
While “Black As Death” was a rather heavy album, Dushan and co. opted for a more accessible and catchy album this time. However, this new release does have a bit of everything: heavy rocking tunes, ballads, more melodic songs, … But less powerballs than on “Black As Death”. On a sidenote, Roma Siadletski is not singing on this album.
It begins with “Back Into Mystery” and its atmospheric intro, where the main theme is played. This flows over into midtempo rocking. And it does rock, yet melodicness prevails, and that makes it all the more catchy. The guitar solo is good, but to me it needed a backing rhythm guitar, if only to not make the guitar sound so… solitary. All ends with the piano and an atmospheric setting, where effects adds a touch of… mystery, indeed.
IRON MASK is a band in which Neo-Classical influences are applied. “Like A Lion In A Cage” is the first song on this album to make use of them. The guitar piece in the beginning sounds, however, rough, or not as smooth as the rest of the recordings. Oh yes, there’s a lion growling as well. When I first saw the title, I hoped it wouldn’t be a cover version of Willy Sommers’s “Als Een Leeuw In Een Kooi” (Dutch for “Like A Lion In A Cage” – see here), one of the classic Flemish Pop hits. But that detail aside, buckle up for an uptempo, übercatchy rocker with double bass. Think of (a mix of) SAXON, AXXIS, STRATOVARIUS (especially the keyboards), etc. Mark Boals sings quite clean here, while on “Black As Death” he sounded more rough. Solos (by guitar and keyboards, taking turns) are also present, though later in the song. After that it’s back to the chorus and done. Structure-wise things aren’t all that complicated.
Ramy (drums) has the pleasure to start “Only One Commandment”. This track has a simple rhythm, is slower than the previous songs, and runs straight-forward. Melodic input comes from Mark’s singing. The guitar solo is again well done, but why must it sound so rough compared to when he/Dushan plays guitar in the rest of the song(s)? It seems to be a classic problem, as even on MAGIC KINGDOM’s last album (“Symphony Of War”, 2010) this was the case. Time for a trip to Asia then, with “Samurai”. The atmospheric intro welcomes you in the land of the rising sun, after which it’s time to ROCK! Pedal to the Metal, in a Power Metal way. Woohoo! No, wait. The tempo drops a bit, but Ramy keeps it varied and that’s good. This is one of the heavier, more powerful tracks. The intro theme returns before the obligatory solo moment. All in all, a very good hymnic track.
Back outside, in “Fifth Son Of Winterdoom”, a cold, icy wind blows. Footsteps in the snow, howling wolves, … a symphonic touch, leading into hymnic/anthemic Rock. The orchestral part operates from the back, over halfway, while the rest of the instrumentation does the talking. There’s even a bass moment, as an element of mystery or even calmness. After this side-step, all power is restored. Leadwork is key in this song. The change couldn’t be bigger when “Angel Eyes, Demon Soul” sets in. This is a lighter song, very direct and very accessible. But it’s good.
An ode to Rock, why not? “Rock Religion” brings out the harpsichord again, making way for a typical midtempo Rocksong, by the book. The drumming is a little faster in the chorus. But overall, the music is catchy. In fact, the whole album was written in this way, to contain nothing but catchy songs. And here the guitar solo does sound as smooth as the normal recordings. Why only here?
Time for a little ballad then. “Father Farewell” is about Dushan’s father, who passed away last year. The song itself is good, though, to be honest, not among his/Dushan’s best work. “Eagle Of Fire” is also one of the less good songs on this album. It’s a Heavy Metal song with lots of attention for melody. Nothing wrong with that, in fact, that’s one of the strong points of IRON MASK. But again, it sounds pretty standard.
When history and Metal combine, it usually results in a fine marriage. “Reconquista 1492” begins acoustically, transcending into a hymnic powerball. Keyboards provide backing in the chorus, contrasting with the heavy, dragging verses. At this stage, there’s a need for an uplifting song. “Run To Me” fulfills that desire. It’s direct and accessible. Vocals stand out here, especially in the chorus. Last but not least, there’s “The Picture Of Dorian Grey”, a long one. It’s got power and drive. Finally! And it also contains your typical IRON MASK ingredients. Plus, as it’s a long track, there’s room for Dushan to let his talent flow freely. The chorus is of the furious kind, you could say. All ends with clean music, yet with effect and bells.
“Black As Death” was IRON MASK’s best album to date, in my opinion. “Fifth Son Of Winterdoom” is, overall, less heavy, more melodic, more accessible. The production is good, very good, save for those rough solos. The end result is very good, make no mistake. But somehow it doesn’t have the power of attraction of the previous efforts. I won’t say it leaves me cold – it doesn’t -, but Dushan and co. have done better in the past.
- Back Into Mystery
- Like A Lion In A Cage
- Only One Commandment
- Seven Samurai
- Fifth Son Of Winterdoom
- Angel Eyes, Demon Soul
- Rock Religion
- Father Farewell
- Eagle Of Fire
- Reconquista 1492
- Run To Me
- The Picture Of Dorian Grey
Mark Boals – vocals
Dushan Petrossi – guitar
Andreas Lindhal or Mats Olausson – keyboards
Vassili Moltchanov – bass
Ramy Ali – drums