Steel Aggressor - From ruins to dust 4/5

Reviewed: 7-1-11





Tracklist:

1. War on the tundra
2. Return to Mithril Hall
3. Sword and sorcery
4. From ruins to dust
5. Master of past and present
6. Valeman's journey
7. Living in the shadows


From Indiana comes a strong debut burst of epic fantasy metal which should appeal greatly to fans of Iron Maiden’s more complex epics (as long as they don’t express Dickinsonian vocals), early Heathen, and Iced Earth - especially 'Night of the stormrider'. The songs are intricate, and rife with great, compelling power metal riffs and leads, with solid production (at least for a debut CD) and great rhythm work. The lyrics are a treat for fantasy fans like myself, and while the vocals work well on the CD, and in no way detract from the overall appeal, they also don’t offer a full CD’s worth of melodic vocal lines to go along with the rest of the music.

The band’s basic musical approach is driving power metal, with a great deal of speed and hints of aggression, but melodic leads are never far away. There’s also a dose of speed metal, especially in the vocals. Rick Cope is a dazzling guitarist, and handles all the leads and rhythm on this CD, and also provides the band’s vocals. While the vocals aren’t a weakness, they’re also certainly not the major strength of the CD. A couple of the songs provide some really great vocal choruses, notably the title track and “Sword and sorcery”, but for the most part the vocals are more in the rhythmically chanted thrash variety, albeit with a lot of clarity and not much in the way of harshness. There is a hint of Meliah Rage and their original vocalist as well in the work, which makes sense since that band also bridged the gap between “power” and “speed” metal. It’s a pretty good approach for the band, you get to enjoy the sensational music and the fantasy lyrics, and as opposed to a vocalist who tried to do more than he could and sung badly, it’s not at all a detraction, and works very well... just something purchasers should be aware if polished power vocals are requisite in their purchase.

As mentioned, the lyrics pander to uber-fantasy geeks like myself, including songs about both R.A. Salvatore’s Bruenor, and Weiss and Hickman’s ultimately compelling Raistlin, alone. For some, especially when buttressed by an impressive and thoroughly enjoyable CD, that will be more than they need to pick this up.



CRAIG




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