For my taste, California’s Stormspell Records has been one of the most consistently excellent underground old-school metal labels for years. The only problem (if you want to characterize it that way) with the label is their propensity to release numerous albums at a time. Why is this a problem? Well, it means that sometimes really strong albums slip through the cracks because they are overshadowed by higher-profile Stormspell releases coming out in the same batch. Case in point: Brazil’s Fire Strike, whose full-length debut album entitled Slaves of Fate was issued contemporaneously with highly anticipated new albums from the likes of Blazon Stone and Stereo Nasty. The purpose of this review is to place Fire Strike squarely on your radar, in case you missed out on them earlier. The label accurately describes Slaves of Fate as “Iron Maiden meets Doro Pesch” (I’d also mention early Crystal Viper), so if that summary intrigues you, read on.
Although the name may be unfamiliar, Fire Strike are anything but neophytes on the scene. To the contrary, the Sao Paolo-based quintet, led by founding guitarist Helyad Amaro, has been a viable entity since 2005, with their first demo dating back to 2008. After a couple of demos, Fire Strike released an EP entitled Lion and Tiger in 2013. Four years later, the band’s full-length debut sees the light of day. Interestingly, not all songs on Slaves of Fate are new; rather, two tracks from the EP (“Master of the Seas” and “Streets of Fire”) are reprised here, and the lineage of the closing anthem “Our Shout is Heavy Metal” can be traced all the way back to Fire Strike’s 2009 demo. As you will no doubt have surmised from the reference to Doro Pesch, Fire Strike feature a female lead singer, Aline Nunes, and she’s a good one. She sings with a little accent but a lot of power, a lot of enthusiasm, and a lot of heart, even if she has a tendency to overdo it sometimes with some of the over-the-top screams and high notes (see “Master of the Seas” for a good example of this). She sounds a bit like Crystal Viper’s Marta Gabriel and A Sound of Thunder’s Nina Osegueda, just to give you an idea. The real star of the show, however, is the twin-guitar team of Helyad Amaro and Henrique Schuindt. Despite the simple, anthemic structures, many of the songs on Slaves of Fate hover between five and six minutes in length to allow ample opportunity for Amaro and Schuindt to spread their wings and light up their fretboards with early Maiden-styled guitar histrionics. I would understand if some listeners feel that the material could be trimmed into a more concise attack, but I like the way the songs breathe and the guitars are endlessly entertaining, offering plenty of fist-in-the-air moments during those extended instrumental breaks.
By now it should be obvious that Fire Strike aren’t trying to revolutionize the genre. The band’s passion for straight-up, no-frills traditional heavy metal shines through in everything they do. In general, Fire Strike’s philosophy and approach to their craft are aptly summarized by the chorus to the Maiden-worshipping “Our Shout is Heavy Metal,” which goes “We’re making heavy metal / We’re singing heavy metal / We’re playing heavy metal / We’re living heavy metal.” And god bless them for it. The songs themselves are catchy and energetic, bolstered by an in-your-face powerful production job. To understand what Slaves of Fate is all about, one need look no further than the exceptional opener “Reach for Your Life,” which boasts an infectious dual-guitar melody, showcases an arena-worthy chorus and captures the 1980s true metal spirit perfectly. Most of the other tracks follow suit. Fire Strike only broaden their template in a couple of spots, such as the French-language spoken-word Napoleon intro to “Master of the Seas” or the gentle, beautiful acoustic guitars that introduce “Losing Control.”
If your shout is heavy metal (and it must be, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this review), then you owe it to yourself to give Fire Strike’s Slaves of Fate a chance. To my ears, it ranks as one of Stormspell’s finest releases in 2017, which is high praise given the quality standards associated with that imprint.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~