Iron Mask - Black As Death
Iron Mask are a Belgian bunch of veteran metalheads, cast-offs and veterans who have an impressive amount of collective experience. Featuring many ex-members of guitar virtuoso Yngwie Malmsteen's band, and a pretty decent guitarist of their own in Dushan Petrossi, Iron Mask play an expected style of neo-classical metal that pays homage to the Rainbows and Iron Maidens of the world while retaining a modern edge in tonal aggression and songwriting. Black As Death is the band's 4th LP to date and is a sizable dose of metal standards, ballads and technical feats of masturbatory fury.
"From Light Into The Dark" is an obligatory and rather bland layered guitar intro, which should be ignored so as to let the catchy "Black As Death" serve as a proper starting point. Right away the guitars become the focal point with groovy riffs and fiery leads, and as the chanting vocals kick in there's a whole feast of goodness to dig into. Vocalist Mark Boals is a journeyman of numerous other projects and his voice is crisp, aggressive and rangy, a stellar fit with the style of metal at hand. What follows this is 11 more tracks of similarly high-quality metal, with highlights and moments of temporary filler. "Feel The Fire" has an excellent pace, up-tempo and galloping forward in a Symphony X-ish manner. "Blizzard of Doom" is exemplary of the sort of corny lyrical content this album is somewhat bogged down by, but kicks all sorts of ass in spite of that fact. "Nostferatu" is similar in lyrical goofiness but damn does that neo-classical guitarwork not fit the theme perfectly. This might be my favorite song, alongside the title track.
While this record is, front-to-back, a piece of pure inspired awesomeness, I cannot help but feel worn down by the end of it all. It's surprising to me, considering the variety of tones, tempos and songwriting styles to be found, but nevertheless I think I've hit such a glut of this nostalgic trad-metal lately that Black As Death came along one or two albums too late to make a lasting impact. But don't let me detract you; if you're into the guitar-heavy stylings of Malmsteen, or your more elaborate and speed-centric approach to traditional and power metals, then Iron Mask are more than good enough for you.
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