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Iron Fire - "Among The Dead" (CD)

Iron Fire - "Among The Dead" CD cover image

"Among The Dead" track listing:

1. Intro (The Lost City)
2. Among the Dead
3. Hammer of the Gods
4. Tornado of Sickness
5. Higher Ground
6. Iron Eagle
7. Made to Suffer
8. The Last Survivor
9. No Sign of Life
10. Ghost from the Past
11. When the Lights Go Out
12) For Whom the Bell Tolls (Metallica Cover) (CD Bonus Track)

Reviewed by on August 31, 2016

"[The album] has its moments, especially with some crunch to the riffs, but fails to provide enough punch to rise above so many other releases."

Nearly lost in the morass of releases in 2016 was the new Iron Fire. Having been a fan of the band for so many years, I was definitely curious as to what Martin Steene had up his sleeve since the stellar “Voyage of the Damned” was issued in 2012. If I recall, the essence of my review of that release was that to pass it up because it appeared as a generic power metal release would be a mistake. Well, flash forward four years and “Among the Dead,” though a serviceable release, fails to provide anything above generic. It has a rougher edge, especially in Steene’s vocals and the production, but lacks the memorability of previous efforts.

Where “Voyage of the Damned” was a maturation of Iron Fire’s sound into multi-subgenres, “Among the Dead” feels like it traverses a bit backward with a slightly modern edge in terms of heaviness. In other words, it comes across a bit like Iron Fire taking some elements from other bands released on Steene’s own Crime Records. No, it’s certainly not full-on progressive melodic death or tech death (or even Scar Symmetry type modern metal). It’s definitely steeped in traditional metal with a raw edge and some fantastic riffs from Kirk Backarach.

Steene’s vocals are much grittier on the clean end, but he delves a little more into the death style growls, which works in parts and doesn’t in others. The result resembles a deeper sounding James Hetfield with some punkish shouts. Overall, the material is a bit thrashier as well, which compliments that style – or vice versa.

The problem I have with “Among the Dead” is its lack of memorability, which leaves the songs a bit mediocre. The riffs sound cool (a bunch in the vein of Running Wild – see “Hammer of the Gods” and especially “The Last Survivor”), the songs are serviceable and the choruses are pretty vanilla. Fans of traditional and pseudo-thrash styles will find this to their liking, but I was hoping for more considering the direction “Voyage of the Damned” was headed. The standout tracks are “Iron Eagle” and “Tornado of Sickness.” The staying power runs thin, since picking up the album a few days later didn’t really merit any remembrance. However, the production is quite good and quite clear with a lot of raw, natural energy to keep it from sounding over-produced.

“Among the Dead” is a solid metal release that will please some fans of traditional and thrash. It doesn’t present any progression from “Voyage of the Damned” and overall the songwriting sounds very formulaic and mediocre. It has its moments, especially with some crunch to the riffs, but fails to provide enough punch to rise above so many other releases.

Highs: Solid songs, nice crunchy riffs a la Running Wild.

Lows: The songwriting lacks memorability and the choruses are very vanilla.

Bottom line: Iron Fire's latest effort is solid, but formulaic, leaving it bland and "Among the Dead."

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)