Ride for Glory
Riding out of the Great White North in a blaze of glory, Iron Kingdom present their third self-released album, entitled ‘Ride for Glory.’ This young band from British Columbia led by siblings Chris Osterman (vocals/ guitars) and Amanda Osterman (drums) specialize in a very particular adaptation of the classic Iron Maiden sound, featuring epic arrangements and lengthy meandering instrumental passages (three of the six proper songs clock in at 6:50 or longer), highly melodic and accomplished guitar work, and a prominent Harris-style bass attack. The style is traditional metal to the bone, with unabashedly old-school riffs and plenty of parts tailor-made for “woah-oahhhh” audience singalongs. You could almost compare it to John Arch-era Fates Warning in places, both vocally and musically, as Iron Kingdom attempts to harness the primal energy of early Maiden in progressive song structures. By “progressive,” I don’t mean some pretentious Dream Theater keyboard nonsense. Think progressive like ‘Spectre Within,’ so there remains plenty of crunch and the guitars are the focal point, but the arrangements and vocal melodies venture into atypical territories.
‘Ride for Glory’ adheres to a loose lyrical theme, with many of the songs being about historical figures who have, to quote the liner notes, “fought and died for what they believed was good and just.” So there’s a tune about Leif Erikson, another about the Samurai, and in a particularly obscure reference, Lady Trieu. “Who?” you ask? So did I. Thankfully, Google is my friend, so I now know that Lady Trieu was a female warrior in the third century who resisted the Chinese occupation of Vietnam. Wow, there’s your Asian history lesson of the day. I won’t even get started on the song about Khawla bint Al-Azwar, a seventh-century female Muslim warrior who fought side-by-side with (and famously rescued) her brother. Now, while the songs are inspired by these historical figures, they don’t delve into detailed historical narratives a la “Alexander the Great,” so the tunes remain perfectly enjoyable for non-history buffs.
Iron Kingdom have delivered an entertaining 40-minute slab of traditional heavy metal that will surely appeal to those Maiden fanatics with a keen ear for guitar histrionics and extended musical workouts. Aside from the fine music, Iron Kingdom also present their album with a fantastic riding-into-battle cover painting that rivals the artwork on any major metal label release you care to name. That said, ‘Ride for Glory’ is not a perfect release. The songs sometimes feel patched together, with awkward transitions and hooks that get lost in the shuffle. More than once, I got the sense that the band didn’t quite know how to end a song, so they just faded it out whenever they ran out of steam. Also, the vocals of Chris Osterman are an acquired taste. He sounds like a higher-pitched, scratchier, more metal version of Geddy Lee. Personally, I’m not bothered by the voice. Osterman is obviously pouring his heart and soul into the vocals, so if the delivery isn’t technically perfect, I guess I don’t care. At the end of the day, what matters is that ‘Ride for Glory’ is a fun, entertaining romp through realms of old-fashioned heavy metal glory.
One final note: Iron Kingdom are recovering from a recent disaster. Just a few weeks ago, their touring van blew a tire at high speeds on the first night of their ‘Ride for Glory’ tour, putting the vehicle, band, gear, etc. in a ditch. Thankfully, the band members emerged physically unscathed, but the financial repercussions of the wreck are dire. If this review has piqued your interest at all, head over to their site and buy a CD or two, won’t you? Everyone needs a helping hand sometimes.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~