Steel Raiser - Race of steel 3/5

Reviewed: 5-9-08


1. Ride the fire
2. Race of steel
3. Dragon battalion
4. Rising into the night
5. Princess of Babylon
6. Roar of revenge
7. Gloria perpetua
8. The night
9. Gears of war
10. Evil's rage

"We are the dawn of hypersonic metal," declare Steel Raiser on the inlay card of their debut CD, 'Race of steel'. While the "hypersonic metal" tag might conjure images of Cellador, Dragonforce and bands of that ilk, Steel Raiser are a horse of a different color. Hailing from Italy, these newcomers are quite fond of steel, judging by their band name, CD name, member nicknames (Steel Avenger, Steel Screamer, and Steel Thunder, respectively), and even record label (yup, Pure Steel Records). Oh, and the guest backing vocalists together form the, you guessed it, "Choir of Steel", according to the liner notes. Hey, I love steel as much as the next guy, but it is possible to have too much of a good thing. It's kind of like profanity. If every other word one utters begins with the letter "f" and rhymes with "schmuck", eventually the shock wears off and the impact is blunted. Same deal here with these omnipresent references to steel. Besides, these Italians are exporting so much steel that they may find themselves subject to hefty export tariffs from the European Union if they're not careful.

If strike 1 is the band's ubiquitous references to steel, then surely strike 2 lies in Steel Raiser's unabashed mimicry of Primal Fear. Good heavens, the cover art features a soaring metal eagle flying toward us as a mushroom cloud detonates in the background. Err, umm, 'Nuclear fire', anyone? Several songs feature guitar riffs courtesy of Gianluca Rossi (aka "Steel Avenger") that are eerily similar to Mat Sinner's writing style on the Primal Fear discography. When opener "Ride the fire" exploded out of my speakers, I half-expected the vocals to kick in with "I came back tonight / From the field of the fight / They collected parts of death," so much did that opening riff sound like Primal Fear's "Final embrace". Parts of "Rising into the night" sound a lot like "Battalions of hate", and singer Alfonso "Steel Screamer" Giordano may not be a Ralf Scheepers clone, but he is a bald dude who definitely spends a great deal of time in the upper register, so there are similarities there too.

So is there a strike 3? Well, actually, no, there isn't. If you can get past the ubiquitous "steel" references and the blatant Primal Fear worship, you'll recognize that 'Race of steel' is actually a good CD for the style. Excellent riffage abounds, and band have some very snappy, punchy songs that should satisfy most of the true metal crowd. The speedy "Ride the fire" is a compelling opener with a superb bridge. "Dragon battalion" and "The night" have a hymnic quality that makes you want to hoist your Moretti, Peroni or other Italian beer of choice and sing along at the top of your steel lungs. The real spotlight-steeling song, however, is "Princess of Babylon", perhaps the most original-sounding tune, with a pulsing midtempo riff backed by church-organ keyboards, a stirring vocal performance from Giordano, and some tasty guitar melodies. If Steel Raiser apply themselves to a "Princess of Babylon" direction in the future, they could really raise the roof (whether fabricated from steel, tin, or reinforced concrete).

There are many worse investments a discriminating heavy metal listener could make than to spend a few shekels and 40 minutes on this Steel Raiser debut. That said, it is a bit too derivative and too one-dimensional to attract serious interest from the underground metal community at large. My guess is that the band rushed into the studio before they were ready (a common affliction in today's environment of plummeting recording costs and easy CD distribution), so they hadn't really had a chance to develop their own identity other than to profess their undying love of steel. If Steel Raiser take a deep breath, hone their craft, and expand their metallurgical pallette (both lyrically and musically), their sophomore outing could make a significant impact. I'll be watching with interest.




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