IRON FIRE
"To the Grave"

(Napalm)

01. The Beast From the Blackness
02. Kill For Metal
03. To the Grave
04. The Battlefield
05. Cover the Sun
06. March of the Immortals
07. The Kingdom
08. Frozen In Time
09. Hail To Odin
10. Doom Riders
11. Ghost of Vengeance
12. The Demon Master

RATING: 5.5/10

Five full-lengths into an unremarkable career, it's hard to get too worked up one way or the other about IRON FIRE. By now, lineup changes or not, the band would have to be collectively retarded not to have at least a basic grasp on their stock in trade — basic, no-frills melodic European power metal. Band mastermind and sole original member Martin Steene has always had a rather thin, unconvincing voice, but it's maturing with age, and he's getting better at using it. And nothing here stinks up the joint, pressing all the expected buttons lyrically and galloping triumphantly in the proper places.

So what's the problem? IRON FIRE remains one of the most bizarrely generic bands to walk the earth, their paint-by-numbers power metal offering no exceptional performances, great songs, massive hooks or even a spark of enthusiasm to justify what they're doing. It's bland as tap water, Steene delivering trite metal-is-the-law cliches while tepid riffs chug along. It's like a Hollywood studio band, hired to deliver sterile bits of songs for sitcoms, was asked to compose a batch of heavy metal as unobtrusive as could be, for background noise in a TV commercial.

It's competent, and even kinda slick, balancing out the more frenzied aspects of traditional Euro power metal with a more steadfast hard rock sound and a "true metal" outlook, whatever that term even means any more. The problem, and it doesn't seem to be one IRON FIRE plans to tackle any time soon, is the band's complete and total lack of personality. If you want one power metal album to represent the entire style in your collection, and you want it to get your head nodding occasionally without inspiring you to delve deeper into the genre, or the band's discography, then your placeholder has arrived. Anyone seeking true inspiration, or even interest, in the genre is advised to look elsewhere.

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