Here’s a great find. Ironheart are a new band from Belfast, Ireland. The quintet (led by guitarist/writer/studio whiz Shaun Nelson) have independently released their debut album, ‘Revolution Calls.’ The quality level – in terms of songwriting, performances, and production values – of this recording is stellar, so much so that if I played it for you unawares, you would be forgiven for assuming this was a new act signed to Nuclear Blast Records or something. The combination of technical skill, musical ability and stubborn, single-minded attention to detail necessary to pull off ‘Revolution Calls’ is impressive, and merits a closer look.
Perhaps the most fitting musical analogy for Ironheart is Primal Fear, although I can definitely hear a vibe of recent/heavier Saxon or even current Accept too. To be clear, although it definitely has some high-velocity moments, ‘Revolution Calls’ generally isn’t an exercise in speedy double-bass Euro power metal with screaming Halford-style vocals. So why the Primal Fear comparison? The meaty, crushing (but still melody-drenched) twin guitars, and the overall catchy, classy, anthemic feel of the material remind very much of the Mat Sinner school of modern (in the sense that this is no 80s throwback nostalgia trip) traditional melodic heavy metal. Singer Stevie K doesn’t particularly sound like anyone else, although he sometimes makes me think of a grittier, raspier take on low-end to mid-range Tim “Ripper” Owens, without the over-the-top wails that our dear Mr. Ripper brings to the table. Overall, Ironheart grab and maintain the listener’s attention for the 48-minute duration of ‘Revolution Calls’ because they know how to write a simple, melodic metal song with heavy-as-balls riffage and hooks galore. Call me a simpleton, but to me, that’s all it’s ever taken to make a great heavy metal album, whether the year is 1982 or 2015. Picking out highlights is difficult (as there are only a couple of tracks where the quality level dips just a hair), but “Heroes of the Lost World” has single potential written all over it, with expertly-executed tempo shifts and an infectious refrain coupled with an equally infectious guitar theme. “Law Makers Curse” is probably my favorite track, with some beautifully soaring guitar work, a penchant for ripping speed, and perhaps the most aggressive chorus on the album. “Gods of War” begins with a deceptive gentle keyboard-and-guitar intro, before giving way to a brilliant Primal Fear / Gamma Ray / Riot type romp with guitar melodies that are pure gold. Honestly, the only negatives on this thing are the unimpressive cover art and the occasionally distracting keyboards (too high in the mix in a few places, like “Fight the Oppressor” and “Humanity’s Last Crime”).
You know, with the crazy, relentless glut of new releases flooding the marketplace in the Internet age, it may seem appealing to sit back and let the larger metal record labels separate the wheat from the chaff. The trouble with that approach is that some outstanding records may fall through the cracks that way. Ironheart’s ‘Revolution Calls’ is just such an album. Don’t wait for the record labels to discover gems like this. Get out there, seize the day (or take hold of the night, if you prefer), and discover them for yourself.
~ Review by Kit Ekman~