posted on 9/2010 By:
Get a load of that album art, will ya? There's a robot knight waving a flaming horned helmet and holding a creepy-looking sword, standing at the edge of a menacing spiked bridge that leads across a peaceful river, beneath a fireworks display / electrical storm / the eye of Sauron and directly into what looks like a volcanic eruption. This artwork is the kind of awesomely silly visual that makes me simultaneously proud and slightly self-conscious about the entire goofy metal schtick. And, yes, if you couldn’t tell by looking, this is a power/trad album...
It’s even a pretty good one, actually…
Denmark's Iron Fire has been around for a decade and a half now, with Metalmorphosized being their sixth full-length release. During those fifteen years, the band's only constant member has been vocalist Martin Steene, which is fitting since his pipes are the band's most prominent trait. Metalmorphosized occupies the middle ground between the trad-metal glory of a Dio or U.D.O. and the Hammerfall / Running Wild side of speed / power metal--the "driving verse into sing-along soaring chorus atop eighth-note kick-drums" aesthetic of a distinctly European flair. On either front, trad or power, Iron Fire isn't breaking new ground, but they're at least treading well the well-trodden path of super-catchy, grin-inducing metal. My biggest complaint is that the guitarwork isn't particularly outstanding--the riffing is serviceable, the solos infrequent and as serviceable and faceless; what riffs do come are entirely secondary to the vocal melodies, which is understandable given that Steene handles the band's songwriting, but yet keeps Iron Fire a step behind the pack. Steene’s voice is powerful, although like the band as a whole, it can be a bit nondescript at times--he has a tendency to sound like Johnny GenericPowerMetalVocalist, all vibrato-laden, mid-range-y and soaring. Guest vocalist Ivan Grosmeyer provides some tinges of extremity in “The Underworld,” a paired combination of a high-pitched, near-black screech and a lower, bellowed grunt, both of which provide a nice contrast to Steene’s crystal-clear chorus melody. Mostly, however, Iron Fire is The Martin Steene Show, from start to finish.
Something of a compilation, Metalmorphosized sports four new tracks amongst eight older demos (or ten, if you get the bonus-track version, which I didn't), those earlier tunes recorded in the days around or between 2001's On The Edge and 2006's Revenge. As such, the band's revolving line-up revolves even throughout the course of the disc—Metalmorphosized features appearances by virtually every former member of Iron Fire, of which there are many. To its credit, the album doesn't feel patchwork; it flows nicely, sounds consistent, keeps pace, and Steene's slick, occasionally gritty and forever slightly-nasal vocal style ties everything together. The production is decent, not brilliant, which, as you may have gathered by now, is pretty much Iron Fire's modus operandi--everything about Metalmorphosized is solid without being stellar, including the album art. (The same can be said of the only other Iron Fire discs I've heard—Revenge and 2008's Triumph Of The Blade. Iron Fire is consistently good at what they do, but they’ve never managed to move to the head of the class.)
All in, Metalmorphosized isn't going to convert the unconverted to the cause of power metal. It has a few flaws, most notably its tendency towards the generic, but nonetheless, it is an entertaining listen, and for those listeners who already gleefully bask in the goofy glory of melodic trad-leaning Euro-metal, this one's a solid entry in the catalog of a respectable (if decidedly not first-tier) outfit.
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