As if to convince us that 2020 was not all bad, Iron Savior have released their latest album, Skycrest, which shows the band in the same peak form that we’ve all come to expect…. Power metal filled with blazing guitars, epic vocals and great hooks.
Now on their 14 th album, the band formed in 1996 by Piet Sielck and other ex-Helloween members, Iron Savior has rightfully been placed among the legends of metal. While the lineup around Piet has changed over the years, the quality of the musicianship has not wavered and the band’s sound which to my ears combines the NWOBHM with other metal greats remains a constant. Once again, for Skycrest, the overall sound was polished to a metal perfection by Piet at his Powerhouse Studios. I do feel I have to note that this review is happening after the release of the album and more than a week ago, there were over 500,000 streams of it already on Spotify, demonstrating both the dedication of Iron Savior fans as well as being a testament to the quality of the album. This time around, the band does stray a bit from the science fiction themes that dominate some of their other releases, as the challenges around the pandemic including bassist Jan being very ill, made this more of a personal album. That being said, the band made an album filled with positive energy, serving as an antidote to the overall darkness of the year.
“The Guardian” opens up Skycrest with the Rush-sounding keyboards (think Subdivisions) and then some harmonized guitar parts come in for the rest of the short instrumental, which in some ways serves as a prelude to what can be found later in the album.
The fast opening riffs of Skycrest, the guitar fills, Piet’s signature smooth, strong vocals, and the epic choruses immediately set the tone for the album. Production is perfect as one would expect, with every voice and instrument clear in the mix, and having two great guitarists make for some not only great solo sections where they can trade off solos, but also opens up the opportunity for the harmonized guitar parts that are somewhat rare these days and hearken back to late 80’s, early 90’s metal.
This nostalgic metal sound for me really hits with the opening riffs of “Our Time Has Come”. Combine that with the verse sections that begin with primarily bass and drums carrying the song and you have
what some may consider a throwback in terms of composition but one that is fully modern in terms of approach. The quieter sections in this song is where I first began to appreciate the bass of Jan Eckert and drums of Patrick Klose and how much the rhythm section affect the overall sound. Again, as I will say throughout the review the guitar solos and fills are expertly fit into the songs and are an element that seems to be missing from many of the albums I’ve been hearing.
The next three tracks, “Hellbreaker”, “Souleater”, and “Welcome to the New World” really make the album for me. The bass and drums really standout in “Hellbreaker” and “Souleater” with “Hellbreaker” having a bit of a bouncy rhythm and “Souleater” really having that driving element to it. Both songs highlight different aspects of Piet’s vocals and have the epic chorus/gang vocal sections. I hear a bit of Rainbow-era Graham Bonnet at times in the vocals, which is something I didn’t expect but really to enjoy. This is where some of the different aspects of Iron Savior’s sound come in. “Hellbreaker” has a catchy chorus and does remind me at times of Rainbow while “Souleater” definitely has more of a Judas Priest feel to it in terms of structure and even Piet’s delivery at times. “Welcome to the New World” ups the intensity a bit more lyrically addressing the division seen in the world and the selfishness and rampant greed that are driving things. Patrick Klose’s drums really punctuate the point throughout the song. “Is the nature of man, to make the same mistakes over and over again?” Again here, we have the catchy chorus backed by the fast drums and driving riffs adding power to the song.
Later in the album, the band known for “Heavy Metal Never Dies” throws in another fist-pumping metal anthem with “Raise the Flag of Metal”. While on the surface these songs may seem a bit tongue in cheek, they simply work well and this will undoubtedly be a favorite. When I’m listening to this, I can almost get a Quiet Riot “Metal Health” vibe out of it complete with Kevin Dubrow vocal stylings in some parts. I do think the chorus could have been a bit more forceful but I imagine this will totally come out in the live setting.
“Ease Your Pain” shows the band taking a much quieter approach with the introduction of a power ballad to the album. Fan or not of the song, it does showcase some other vocal qualities of Piet that are not usually part of Iron Savior songs. The album closes out with “Ode to Brave”, a fast song that gallops along a fast rate and hits all of the qualities one expects from Iron Savior…especially those guitar solos and harmonies…so good.
Let’s face it, 2020 has not been a great year for anyone, especially musicians who have seen tours cancelled and their livelihood disrupted to say the least. Out of the darkness of the year, Iron Savior has presented the metal community with a bright shining gem in Skycrest as only they could do.
Written by John Jackson
- The Guardian
- Our Time has Come
- Welcome to the New World
- There Can Be Only One
- Silver Bullet
- Raise the Flag
- End of the Rainbow
- Ease Your Pain
- Ode to the Brave
Release Date: 4 Dec. 2020
Record Label: AFM Records
Jan Sören Eckert : Bass guitar
Patrick Klose: Drums
Joachim “Piesel” Küstner: Guitar
Piet Sielck: Guitar&Vocals
“Iron Savior” (EP) 1997
“Iron Savior” 1997
“Coming Home (Single) 1998
“Interlude” (EP) 1999
“I’ve Been to Hell” (Single) 2000
“Dark Assault ” 2001
“Condition Red” 2002
“Battering Ram” 2004
“The Landing” 2011
“Rise of the Hero” 2014 [review]
“Live at the Final Frontier” 2015 [review]
“Titancraft” 2016 [review]
“Kill or Get Killed” 2019 [review]
Video for ‘Souleater’
Video for ‘Raise the Flag of Metal’