It seems there’s been a fair amount of tumult and controversy in the Air Raid camp over the last couple of years. After releasing a highly regarded EP (‘Danger Ahead’) and album (‘Night of the Axe’) on Stormspell Records, the Swedish trad metal act became embroiled in some sort of dispute with talented lead singer Michalis Rinakakis, who subsequently left the fold. Now, two years later, Air Raid are back with a new record label (High Roller) and a new singer (Arthur W. Andersson), seeking to regain whatever momentum may have been lost. ‘Point of Impact’ is the result of these new collaborations.
To lay all doubts to rest from the outset, Andersson is a killer vocalist, but he sounds nothing like his predecessor. Rinakakis was distinctive with his gritty lower-end range and gravelly screams; meanwhile, Andersson is much smoother and overall higher pitched in his delivery. It could be said that Andersson is more of a “typical” trad metal singer, but to me, that sells him short. He sings magnificently on this disc. What about the music? Well, Air Raid are still very much enmeshed in that new wave of traditional / classic heavy metal, with big twin guitar riffs and melodies, plenty of speed, and lots of anthemic catchy choruses. A song like “Wildfire” is just pure high-velocity metal bliss, with monstrous riffs and a godly vocal performance from Andersson. “Vengeance” is cut from the same cloth, a speedy workout in pummeling drums, screaming vocals, and shredding guitars. Elsewhere, “Madness” is more stripped down, midtempo, simple and hooky. “Victim of the Night” and “We Got the Force” are the more epic tracks, with 5+ minute play times and musical dynamics. There’s even a nifty little instrumental, “Flying Fortress,” where guitarists Andy Stormchild and Johnny Nightshredder (heh!) get to show off their chops.
Honestly, it’s hard to imagine anyone who enjoys the new wave of traditional old-fashioned heavy metal not going bonkers for ‘Point of Impact.’ Sure, the play time is on the short side (8 songs clocking in at a hair under 35 minutes). Maybe the highest peaks on this album don’t quite match those on ‘Night of the Axe’ (like the magnificent “A Blade in the Dark”). And some people will undoubtedly miss Rinakakis’s unique voice. But Air Raid have made a bold statement with ‘Point of Impact,’ remaining true to their style, delivering a batch of uniformly strong songs, and introducing a fine new singer to boot. Air Raid remain comfortably ensconced in the upper tier of newer bands playing this style of music, and we’re all better off for it. Be on the lookout for this one, folks. It packs quite a wallop, and it’s coming to impact a stereo near you.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~
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