European power metal has had the somewhat unfortunate reputation of being cheesy and poppy-happy, but that seems to be changing now with the emergence of European power metal acts that draw on heavier types of metal. One of these bands is the Copenhagen-based band Iron Fire (well, these guys are actually power metal veterans with several demos and albums under their belt), who, with Voyage of the Damned, remind us that of the "power" that the term "power metal" includes.
The genre framework is unambiguously that of the aesthetics of power metal the big, epic overall sound of the album and the use of huge melodic choruses as well as the larger than life sci-fi-based subject matter of the lyrics. And, yes, there are keyboards and ballads on this album (just check the epic ballad 'The Final Odyssey' or the massively epic and symphonic title track). And these power metal elements themselves are not a problem at all. The problem to me is the way that many European power metal bands have cheesed up the genre. Fortunately, this is not something to worry about here, because there are hardly any cheesy moments on the album. Rather than being smearing in slushy cheese, the central power metal elements are neatly wrapped in thrashy guitars, groovy riffs, aggressive drums, occasional proggy shifts and odd time signatures, heavy doom-ladden passages and harsh growls and screams to supplement the already impressive – and expressive – clean vocals.
Iron Fire's brand of modern power metal, as presented on this release, not is not just the result of great songwriting but also top notch musicianship. These guys know what they are doing, and the overall performance is impeccable – from the guitar solos over the drum beats to the vocals. Drawing on genres such as melodeath, death metal, thrash metal and doom metal, Iron Fire have managed to create truly epic power metal, but, rather than going totally cheesy, they have manged to generate a dark and haunting feel – very fitting, considering that the darkness of outer space is a central theme of the album.
Voyage of the Damned is a slab of solid, dark and epic power metal. Totally free of Euro-power metal silliness, it is recommended to those who like their metal epic and powerful, but free from cheese.
1. The Dark Beyond
2. Enter Oblivion OJ-666
4. Slaughter of Souls
6. The Final Odyssey
7. Ten Years In Space
8. Voyage of the Damned
9. With Different Eyes
10. Dreams of the Dead Moon
11. Verge to Collide
12. Realm of Madness
13. Warmaster of Chaos (bonus track)