Iron Mask – Fifth Son Of Winterdoom
Reviewed by Arno Callens
For all the crap I give my country, I have been writing quite a bit about Belgium lately. Following Dyscordia’s Twin Symbiosis and Epysode’s Fantasmagoria comes yet another release worthy of international acclaim. I may not have to pack my bags for Venezuela just yet.
Iron Mask is, of course, already a stalwart in the power metal genre. With Fifth Son Of Winterdoom (A title referring correctly to the album count? Rage and Circus Maximus should take note!), the band takes another step in conquering the world. Predecessor Black As Death already saw them break a bit out of their neoclassical niche to include broader influences of power and heavy metal. Fifth Son now adds hard rock to that equation, which should really make the music more appealing to a wider audience. Luckily for fans of the first hour, Iron Mask accomplishes this without losing any of that Dushan Petrossi touch.
How to follow up titanic openers such as “Shadow Of The Red Baron” and “Black As Death”? Simple: don’t. “Back Into Mystery” opens with a lead reminiscent so reminiscent of good old ABBA (of all bands), one wonders if Tommy ReinXeed is somehow involved. Mark Boals’ voice and background are of course tailor-made for a more classic rock approach. I suspect he was at least a little bit involved in the songwriting this time, whereas previously he merely air-dropped into the absent Val Halla Jr.’s spot. Boals’ soothing voice makes “Back Into Mystery” a far cry from the titanic “Black As Death”, but the emotion he pours into the song remains the same.
Iron Mask’s modified mission statement becomes more apparent as the record progresses. “Lion In A Cage” is a straightforward neo-classical rocker with a killer riff and shout-along chorus. Even the this-day-all-too-common metal anthem “Rock Religion” is bliss, its big refrain bouncing off the imaginary arena walls that it’s playing in. The more power-metal oriented tunes like “Only One Commandment”, “Eagle Of Fire”, and “Run To Me” strike a similar note: a minimum of neoclassical noodling, a maximum of melodies.
At first this stylistic shift felt off to me, neutered and pandering even. Yet Iron Mask retains its charm: Boals is not just a replacement now but a real asset, and Petrossi’s wizardry complements his voice in wonderful ways. Of course, many of us got into Iron Mask for the epic scope of Hordes Of The Brave and following, and this remains the band’s strongest suit. The title track is a snow-covered delight (think Orden Ogan’s “The Things We Believe In” meets Pharaoh’s “The Year Of The Blizzard”), “Reconquista 1492” a neoclassical throwback to behold, and “The Picture Of Dorian Gray” a fast and furious Oscar-gone-Wilde.
Fifth Son Of Winterdoom stays reasonably true to the past, while pushing into the future. I always admire bands trying to evolve, even if the results are wanting. Iron Mask definitely delivers, boasting as much bravery and boldness as their material emits. If the fifth one is this potent, I can’t wait for the seventh son. Of a seventh … SOO-OO-OO-OOON!
4.0 // 5