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Album Review: IRON SAVIOR Rise of the Hero

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European power metal has a tendency towards bombast and everything-but-the-kitchen-sink production value. Bands like Blind Guardian and Sabaton build careers on creating music that's as sweeping and epic as the lyrical content they deal with. Some bands, namely Rhapsody of Fire, even go so overboard in creating big, cinematic soundscapes that they eventually cross the line into masturbatory self-parody. Germany's Iron Savior, on the other hand, has spent more than 15 years recording hard charging power metal that's focused more on making the listener's head bang than painting a vivid mental picture of fantasy landscapes or historical battles. Rise of the Hero is the latest offering from the Teutonic power metallers, and it's business as usual for the band.

Rise of the Hero is Iron Savior's eighth album and it continues the epic sci-fi storyline the band has been weaving since their self-titled debut back in 1997. Without going into too much detail, the story is about the Iron Savior – a sentient spacecraft that was built by a primitive but highly advanced race of humans living in Atlantis. Understanding the storyline isn't necessary to enjoying Iron Savior's music, but if you're interested you can read a synopsis posted on the band's website. Suffice to say, if you enjoy heavy metal in the vein of Helloween and Gamma RayRise of the Hero is right up your alley.

Although Iron Savior maintain the sci-fi story arch from previous albums, it should be noted that a good portion of the songs on Rise of the Hero don't deal explicitly with the main plotline. The song "Revenge of the Bride" is obviously based on Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill films. "Burning Heart" and "Fistraiser" are stereotypical power metal anthems about living free and kicking ass in the name of heavy metal. "Dragon King" is a traditional swords and sorcery epic. There's also a one-off cover version of Swedish dance-punk band Mando Diao's "Dance With Sombody."

The material on Rise of the Hero is some of Iron Savior's best work since 2004's Battering Ram. The previous two albums, Megatropolis and The Landing respectively, found the band sounding a bit lethargic and stale, but here the German's sound reinvigorated. Lead singer Piet Sielck's voice sounds more gruff and powerful than it has in a long time; it's reminiscent of Running Wild's Rock n' Rolf Kasparek and Grave Digger's Chris Boltendahl in their primes. The music is much catchier, too.  "Last Hero" is an appropriately epic sounding album opener with shreddy, soaring guitar solos, vocal choruses galore, and infectious hooks that establish expectations for the rest of the album. There are definitely weak points in the nearly 60 minute run time, but that's to be expected. "Revenge of the Bride" tries to be compelling but falls short, and the aforementioned cover of "Dance With Somebody" is serviceable but wildly out of place amid a dozen tracks of old school power metal. The worst track, though, is "The Demon." A plodding, pseudo-power ballad that's way too long and overblown.

The weak spots of Rise of the Hero can easily be forgiven, though. Even on its own, "Fistraiser's" infectious chorus and driving melody gloss over the album's few shortcomings. Factor in equally entertaining tracks like "Firestorm" and "Iron Warrior," and Rise of the Hero becomes an insta-purchase for Iron Savior fans or fans of straight forward heavy metal in general. It's not their best offering, but it's good nonetheless. Rise of the Hero is out now on AFM Records.





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