An icon for the new generation emerges.
Though the manner in which an artist rises to prominence may have changed, the art itself tends to stay mostly the same for both those whom create it and consume it. In this present age of internet-based celebrity, there is a certain satisfaction in seeing a promising new player in the metal realm going viral, a disposition normally reserved to the latest pop or rap sensation. Such is the story of Brazilian vocalist turned YouTube star Raphael Mendes, whose glorious covers of various classic metal anthems dubbed the “What if Bruce Dickinson sang in other bands” series have become all but ubiquitous in online circles. Combining the denser and roaring character of Dickinson’s post-reunion stylings with semi-frequent flourishes of the old days when Bruce was shattering glass during Maiden’s mid-80s heyday, Mendes has proven himself to be far more than a mere imitator turned tribute artist, and it was only a matter of time before original material would begin to flow from this up and comer.
The choice of the moniker Icon Of Sin for both the project’s name, as well as its debut LP is an appropriate one, drawing upon the forbidding imagery of an ultimate adversary as the one at the tail end of the second installment of the Doom first person shooter game that shares the same title. In many respects, it is a band that conforms perfectly to the past and present roster of Frontiers Records, building upon the classic heavy metal and hard rock templates that have been a consistent staple of label president Serafino Perugino’s direction. Yet this is a band that occupies a heavier and darker end of the traditional metal spectrum, relying upon a mixture of hard-hitting riff work, melodic guitar hooks and a pummeling rhythm section, and generally avoiding the dense and smoother keyboard layering. It draws fairly heavily from both present and 80s Iron Maiden, but often features a swifter, borderline speed metal character in line with Judas Priest and Accept due to drummer CJ Dubiella’s kit work, and the shredding guitar solo work is a tad more technically charged than the handiwork of Murray, Smith and/or Gers.
Forgoing any sort of grand introduction or salutary overture, this album wastes no time in laying down the metallic fury with a series of fist-pounding anthems that hold a massive torch to the classic sounds of the 1980s. Starting off with an elongated crusher and title song in “Icon Of Sin”, this quintet sets a precedent that is largely mid-paced and fairly formulaic in demeanor, but plays off of Mendes’ massive voice flawlessly and opts for a generally tasteful and limited level of detailing in the surrounding instrumentation. This approach is applied to a number of similarly mid-paced anthems such as “Night Breed” and “Pandemic Euphoria”, though the former has more of an Accept meets Hammerfall vibe to it, while the latter could all but be a direct homage to Maiden’s banger off “A Matter Of Life And Death” “Different World”. As if the nostalgia for all things 80s wasn’t blatant enough, another rocking sing-along romp in “Arcade Generation” takes this musical formula into the bygone days when teenaged Gen Xers such as yours truly would pump quarters by the dozen into machines for our version of the gamer experience.
As previously noted, this is not a static emulation of Iron Maiden alone, but an album that does a fair bit of wandering about amid a number of metal influences. This is perhaps best demonstrated by how they present their faster material, as the driving character of speeders like “Virtual Empire” and “Road Rage” conjures up more recent objects of inspiration such as that of Helloween in the case of the former and Primal Fear in the case of the latter. Providing further variation beyond typical practices, the aforementioned “Virtual Empire” features a jazzy fretless bass solo during the subdued interlude segment that would normally be found on some off-kilter progressive metal offering. Taking a further plunge into present day power metal practices is the brief prelude to the roller coaster of an anthem that is “The Last Samurai” dubbed “Hagakure” that sounds almost like it was performed by a traditional Japanese folk music ensemble. But the curveball that truly outdoes them all is the 8 minute epic excursion with a DC Comics theme “Clouds Over Gotham”, mixing in some occasional symphonic moments and some abrupt yet highly effective shifts in and out of ballad territory, bridging the divide between Maiden’s mid-80s era and their latest album “The Book Of Souls” with a fast-paced, Judas Priest twist.
Perhaps the only downside to this riveting mixture of old and new is that it’s long length might be a bit overwhelming at first, especially to the typical consumer of Frontiers Records’ material that expect moderately intricate fair with more of an AOR feel to it. Then again, anyone who took to the highly involved material that has came out of Primal Fear during the latter days of their tenure with said label will find this to be of a similar caliber, if maybe a bit more geared towards the old days of heavy metal before Judas Priest’s “Painkiller” upped the ante on just about every front. Those that have been steadily following the more Maiden-like adherents of the ongoing New Wave Of Traditional Heavy Metal craze such as Starblind and White Wizzard will definitely want to hear this, though it’s not quite as heavily rooted in the older practices of the 80s and often crosses into territory not widely heard in heavy metal circles prior to Helloween coming on the scene. But the true beneficiaries of this album are the large contingent of existing fans of Raphael Mendes’ amazing vocal work, as this album provides over an hour of the same majestic fervor in a more polished package and having taken the premise of Dickinson singing in another band to its logical conclusion. Definitely a project to watch in the coming years.
Released by: Frontiers Music srl
Released Date: April 9th, 2021
Genre: Heavy Metal
- / Guitar
- Raphael Mendes / Vocals
Carrying a vintage sound into the present age, a rising star of the social media world crosses over into the metal recording world with a fold of highly skilled instrumentalists and a sound that is both fresh and familiar.