Steel Tormentor - Unleashed 3.5/5
1. Fallen empire
2. Wings of an eagle
3. Holy lightning
4. Eternal skies
6. The last day
7. Not wanted in heaven
8. As the world bleeds
9. Burning halo
10. Welcome to the end
Steel Tormentor hail from the well-known hotbed of heavy metal that is County Mayo, Ireland. The band was founded almost 10 years ago by guitarist/vocalist/songwriter James Kelly, but it took until 2004 for them to release their debut CD and subject of this review, 'Unleashed'. Recorded by Kelly at his home studio with the help of 2 local musicians as his rhythm section, this self-released effort defies its meagre budget and unlikely place of origin to deliver an honest slab of traditional metal that has its influences unashamedly on full display.
Straddling that fine line between NWOBMH and 80s power metal with considerable style, Kelly has written a fine bunch of songs that overcome their lack of originality to provide a very enjoyable 45 minutes listening time. The Iron Maiden influence shines through very clearly and the CD is carried by Kelly's very capable guitar playing, with virtually every song boasting dual lead guitar and melodic solos aplenty.
Kelly's voice also adds an interesting flavour to proceedings. He doesn't have a particularly amazing singing voice – certainly he's no Dickinson or Halford – and audibly strains on some occasions, but this seems only to add a degree of character to the songs. Clearly the man is giving it his absolute all and his vocal performance sums up the hard work he has put into getting a band up and running over such a long period of time, providing the listener with that honest, working-class charm of so many metal acts of the NWOBHM.
The songs for the most part are fairly similar in structure, all built around sing-a-long choruses and catchy guitar hooks, but there are a couple of exceptions to the rule. The closing track, suitably titled "Welcome to the end", features only vocals and a lone guitar, and closes proceedings with a gentle fade rather than the expected bang. On the opposite end of the scale is the centerpiece of the CD - a 7-minute instrumental called "The last day", which is a high-speed flurry of riffs and dual leads that sits proudly as the best song of the bunch. More of a power metal song than any of the others, this is the sort of offering that will leave fans of early Helloween and other German speed/power acts salivating.
With the exception of the somewhat repetitive intro track, the other songs are all exhilarating tunes that, while hardly re-inventing the wheel, are perfect for fans of classic uplifting 80s power metal. This is a band with the potential to go places, with live recordings of a few new songs on their website showing real promise that Steel Tormentor has, with any luck, a very bright future ahead of them. 'Unleashed' comes highly recommended.
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