Monday, December 02, 2013

Iron Mask-Fifth Son Of Winterdoom

AFM Records

For the record I had not planned to review this album. In all honesty if a CD copy had not ended up in my mailbox (along with Epysode's "Fantasmagoria") I'd have skipped it all together as this Belgium act's last studio-release, 2011's "Black as Death", didn't exactly floor me. It wasn't as if it left a bitter taste in my mouth or anything. I just didn't find it all that exciting. Still, I swore to myself that I would leave any preconceived notions at the front door and give "Firth Son Of Winterdoom" a fair chance. "Sink or swim Iron Mask" I said to myself before tearing the plastic off of the CD and slipping it into my home stereo. Iron Mask, which was formed back in 1998 by guitarist Dushan Petrossi (also of Belgium power metal act Magic Kingdom), came out of the gate (somewhat) strong  with the rock-tinged track "Back into Mystery". Interestingly enough it's numbers like "Back Into Mystery" and the excellent "Angel Eyes, Demon Soul", which both feature rock and roll like arrangements, that help to give this album that little extra something. These guys definitely thought outside the box on these tracks (as well as on the cool Dio-ish "Rock Religion") and I'll gladly give them their due respect for that! Now, besides Dushan Petrossi (who handled all of the electric and acoustic guitars on "Fifth Son Of Winterdoom" as well as being credited with keys, orchestral samples and bass guitar) the musicians involved on Iron Mask's album number five include Petrossi's fellow Magic Kingdom member Vasiliy Molchanov (also formerly of Cryme and Shaw) who is also credited with bass along with drummer Ramy Ali (Evidence One, Freedom Call,  Kiske/Somerville, Roger Staffelbach's Angel of Eden, ex-Frontline, ex-Getaway, ex-Justice) and vocalist Mark Boals (Holy Force, The Codex, ex-Royal Hunt, ex-Yngwie Malmsteen, etc.). Meanwhile guest musician Andreas Lindhal (of Denmark's Wuthering Heights) is credited with background keys and keyboard solos. Looking over my past notes for the "Black as Death" review it appears as if this is the second full-length Iron Mask release to feature lead vocalist Mark Boals and drummer Rami Ali. As far as how it stacks up to their last album I'd say they don't really compare as this one surpassed my expectations.The group seems to have taken a much- needed step forward musically although I will come clean and say that there was one aspect of the new Iron Mask LP that had to grow on me. At first it just seemed as if there was something about Mark Boals voice that didn't sit well with me. It's only after listening to "Fifth Son Of Winterdoom" a few times that I slowly started to appreciate his voice perfectly suites this kind of melodic, neo-classical power metal. It took me repeated listens to come to that point though and I'm not sure why my first listen and my last listen left me with two vastly different opinions. As I listen to it now the song "Eagle of Fire" is playing in the background and Mark Boals voice just seems to blend right into the kind of splendid power metal that fans of Dio would love and appreciate! That just goes to prove that sometimes it's better to give an album a few spins before you come to any rush judgements. Anyway, as far as getting back on track and talking about the musical direction here on Iron Mask's latest it does seem as if this time around the group is much more focused. "Fifth Son Of Winterdoom" just strikes me as so much diffrent and vastily improved then the group's last studio-album. Of course this one is two years in the making so maybe that has something to do with it? Whether that was the key or not Iron Mask seems to be right as rain with this full-length delight. For the most part (other then some fine, rock-drenched and skillfully assembled for ultimate enjoyment, power metal moments) it really is neo-classical power metal for the most part as far as what direction this release takes. It's all about doing what this bunch does best. As they run straight down the list with back to back tracks such as "Like A Lion In A Cage", "Only One Commandment" and "Seven Samurai" it becomes all too clear that Iron Mask has really risen the stakes and now their all about giving their A game for fans. Now the title cut, which is over 10 minutes long(!), might not make it for a lot of people (and I do have to say that from start to finish this was one track that had me contemplating hitting the skip button) as it comes across as a little overblown. But, when there are tracks like "Reconquista 1492" and "Run To Me" (where the listener is treated to everything that guitarist Dushan Petrossi has to offer and his skills are nothing short of spectacular!) it's hard to complain. Whether he is doing his best to pay tribute to the greats like Dio and Iron Maiden or digging out solos that make you envision Blackmore's Nights his playing is beyond golden! With that said it's the interplay between Dushan Petrossi's guitar playing and the lead vocals provided by Mark Boals that really gave me pause to consider how much I actually enjoyed this album! The two of them together give Iron Mask's latest a shiny, glossy feeling and make you truly appreciate the many interesting twists and turns that "Fifth Son Of Winterdoom" provides the listener. In addition to the drop-dead serious rockers and epic power metal moments mentioned above, which are really spectacular folks, the album does have more reflective moments like the powerful and sad ballad "Father Farewell". Petrossi wrote this song for his father who sadly passed away last year and it's the heartfelt pain of "Father Farewell" that makes this one track stick out from all the various rockers and power metal moments. By the time the epic "The Picture Of Dorian Grey" closes out Iron Mask's latest you're likely to find yourself a bit spent as there is just so much going on! At a little over an hour it is admittedly a long release, but with repeated listens I found new things to enjoy and little things popped up that I had noticed before. Chances are it would be the same for anyone who really takes the time to truly listen to this release. If you are a fan of neo-classical power metal then do yourself a favor and pick this one up. These guys deliver the goods on "Fifth Son Of Winterdoom" and this is one release that I'm more then happy to admit that my conceived notions were dead wrong! 

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