Iron Fire – Voyage Of The Damned
These power/speed metal vets start 2012 off with their 7th effort, Voyage Of The Damned, and full disclosure: I am fairly (completely) uninitiated to the music of Iron Fire. Throwing the album on, the first and biggest thing that stood out to me was the vocal versatility of Martin Steene. What concerned me is that song in and song out, that’s all that I seemed to be coming away with. Steene delivers far from stereotypical speed/power metal vocals. There are much more extreme (bordering on death and thrash) vocals mixed in for flavor, as well as a fairly unique ‘clean’ voice. His vocals alone have the ability to make or break the album for a potential listener, but as for me, it’s something I hate to make judgments on.
What then began to irk me was the production. The vocals are quite loud in the mix and usually in these instances, it’s to cover up some amount of instrumental limpness. Pop music for example is notorious for throwing the instruments at the bottom of a mix and only making you focus on the singer. Iron Fire however, doesn’t seem to suffer from poor instrumental form. In fact, the guitar and drum work is quite excellent at times. For example, the fourth track, “Slaughter Of Souls”, an all around great song, becomes difficult because the vocals are so overpowering. Mixing something as hectic as the music of Iron Fire can’t be easy, but I can’t say the studio did them a ton of favors.
The album takes a decidedly science fiction tone to the lyrics, in particular the middle three tracks “The Final Odyssey”, “Ten Years In Space” and “Voyage Of The Damned”. “Ten Years In Space” is an absolutely fantastic track. If metal is about getting the horns up and the heads banging, then this song is a picture perfect track for the genre. Similar praise for the explosive opener “Enter Oblivion OJ-666”. When I first heard “The Final Odyssey”, my thoughts went to Ayreon, a project that I imagine held some influence over this. However, what it delivered in vocal and lyrical tribute, it fell short in music emulation. With light orchestration and piano, I would be more comfortable calling this a vocal solo with a backing track of various sound effects. While this has the potential to create contrast with the next track, I fear its more likely to bore listeners, especially with it being right after “Leviathan”, which is a well executed but decidedly slower song. “Voyage Of The Damned” is a track I imagine that has the potential to hit or miss big with listeners. Sadly, it was a miss with me, and given my rampant love affair with 10+ minute tracks, that doesn’t give me hope for the rest of the listeners.
The rest of the album is populated with heavy, fast, and energetic metal, but perhaps feeding my issues with production is that the sound is fairly generic. Again, this may just be poorly managed chaos, but very few melodies on the album were particularly memorable. Props again to vocalist Martin Steene, he is incredibly versatile and displays good range. For more vocally-oriented listeners, his performance could make this well worth the purchase. Not being familiar with the back catalogue I can’t say whether older fans would enjoy this, but with Steene sounding very on form, this probably won’t disappoint.
Dagg’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5