The savior of iron seeks its past among the stars.
Revisiting the past seems to be inevitable for the aging elite of the metal world, but there are some times where doing so proves even more poignant and relevant than a brand new studio album. One such case that bears repeating until the last iota of light of the sun dies and the earth is consumed in a sea of cosmic ice is that of Iron Savior, a project that arguably represents a path not taken during the early of Helloween when power metal forefather and co-founder Kai Hansen and later studio engineering extraordinaire Piet Sielck were finishing their secondary education. Initially coming to light via the springboard of Kai’s success with Gamma Ray in the mid-90s, which included one of the songs off the eponymous debut “Watcher In The Sky” featuring as a bonus track on 1997’s “Somewhere Out In Space.” The resulting debut proved such a significant influence and commercial force that what started as a one-off project between friends turned into an integral part of the European power metal revival, leading to a succession of Sci-Fi tinged, speed metal-infused LPs that rivaled the credibility of other early figures like Running Wild, Helloween and Scanner.
Naturally all good things have to come to an end, and circa 2002 when Iron Savior was becoming big enough to rival the success of Kai’s flagship project Gamma Ray, scheduling conflicts led to an amicable split that left Piet Sielck in the driver’s seat with a varying lineup of band mates for the foreseeable future. Though many stellar albums and tours would follow, longtime fans of the sub-genre and this band wondered if the original duo that first launched the mighty savior into space would ever collaborate again, especially a few years ago when Iron Savior opted to rerecord a collection of older work in “Reforged – Riding On Fire” to break in the then newly acquired drummer Patrick Klose. Now, a little over 20 years to the day that Kai originally exited the fold, a de facto sequel to the aforementioned compilation of rerecorded classics in “Reforged – Ironbound” has arrived at warp speed, and with it the original co-captain to reprise his role as guitarist and lead vocalist on several classic anthems, with his son and highly accomplished shredder in his own right Tim Hansen along for the ride to cut heads with Sielck and permanent second guitarist Joachim “Piesel” Kustner.
As with its namesake and 2017 predecessor, this anthology of high-impact, intergalactic fury set to power metal consists exclusively of material from Iron Savior’s primordial, pre-2005 past. However, in contrast to the last go around, Piet has upped his game in the producer’s chair something fierce, and the resulting final product delivers a sonic punch to the gut so massive that it rivals the intensity of many modern thrash metal offerings. Likewise, the degree of power still possessed by Piet, Kai and occasionally even bassist Jan-Soren Eckert at the microphone proves formidable even in comparison to men half their age, while also possessing a greater degree of grit that plays well to the modern mix that leaves their respective voices a bit more audible and exposed. But the real meat behind this battering ram of metallic exuberance is in the instrumentation behind the voices, with Patrick Klose’s kit sounding thunderous enough to shake the very earth beneath any listener’s feet, while the glassy chugs of Eckert’s bass and the roaring splendor of the guitars rings clearer and truer than on any prior Iron Savior LP.
Turning in a whopping 24 songs in total, this double CD and digital force of cosmic pickaxe strikes pay dirt at every turn, unearthing gems from the past and imbuing a new luster upon their respective surfaces, with the first half delving into the band’s formative era. Whether the hot iron is struck at a moderately fast pace as on the opening crusher and selection from the 1997 eponymous debut “Children Of The Wasteland” and the militaristic march with a spacey gloss off 1999’s “Unification” “The Battle”, or if light speed gives way to a hyper-thrashing ludicrous speed as on the machine gun like rapidity and melodic splendor of “Starborn” and the Grave Digger-inspired gritty thrasher “Seek And Destroy”, no stone is left unturned and rendered dust by the glorious onslaught. Other high points include epic speeders like “Brothers (Of The Past)” and “Forces Of Rage” off “Unification” and slightly more atmospheric and nuanced cruisers like “Made Of Metal” and “Back Into The Light” off “The Dark Assault.” But the brightest moments are definitely found on “Deadly Sleep” and “Solar Wings” when Kai steps up to the microphone to trade lyrical duties with Piet, rekindling the magic that ultimately gave birth to this long-running power metal fold.
Once the second half of this megalith of metallic goodness commences, a greater degree of stylistic eclecticism emerges, though obviously not at the expense of the obligatory impact factor that is Iron Savior’s stock and trade. Epic offerings off 2002’s “Condition Red” (Piet’s first studio foray in this project without Hansen) such as “Paradise” and “Thunderbird” that were auspiciously absent from the previous Reforged installment have been given a particularly noticeable upgrade, the latter featuring the same signature acoustic interlude with an even more elaborate arrangement. Likewise, some certified diamonds in the rough off 2004’s “Battering Ram” such as the nimble speed thrasher “Riding Free” and the mid-paced, ultra-catchy banger and deep cut “Starchaser” make an equally compelling splash in this sea of musical greatness. Rounding out this gigantic offering are some curious and stylistically varied odds and ends, with the 2004 bonus track and somber power ballad “Living On A Fault Line”, which sees Eckert’s bass work getting fancy enough to rival Steve Harris at times and Piet’s vocals coming off as uncharacteristically pristine and smooth. Likewise, the rerecorded cover of Seal’s “Crazy” gleams just a tad brighter than its 2002 predecessor both musically and vocally, while the surprisingly on point and faithful rendition of Eurythmics classic “Sweet Dreams” just knocks it out of the interstellar park.
The only real complaint that one could throw this album’s way, other than the fact that it clocks in at just over a grueling two hours in the length, is that it presents a rather odd conundrum in spite of closing the circle in many respects. Given the massive success that the recent reunion of Helloween has enjoyed, the question is thus begged as to whether this will stand as a one-off collaboration, or if there might be another album of completely new material that will feature the riffs and screams of Kai Hansen. As a long time fan of the band that acquired their magnum opus and 1999 sophomore LP “Unification” the day that it was released, this writer is likely not the only one greedily wanting more, but whatever will come to be in the next year or two, Iron Savior is a band that delivers the goods regardless of who is a part of Piet Sielck’s bridge crew. Older and newer fans of this band, nay any self-respecting trustee of Teutonic speed metal, would be foolish to miss out on this one.
Order the “Reforged: Ironbound” album HERE,
Released By: AFM Records
Release Date: August 3rd, 2022
Genre: Power Metal
“Reforged: Ironbound” Track-listing:
1 Children of the Wasteland
2 Protect the Law
4 Deadly Sleep
5 Forces of Rage
6 Brothers (Of the Past)
7 The Battle
9 Seek and Destroy
10 Solar Wings
11 Made of Metal
13 Firing the Guns
14 Back Into the Light
4 Tyranny of Steel
5 Riding Free
7 Living on a Fault Line
9 Sweet Dreams
10 Crazy Radio Edit
A little over 20 years to the day that twin metal titans and longtime friends Piet Sielck and Kai Hansen parted ways, the iron-bound union of old has been reforged to deliver an updated and utterly colossal rendition of the glory days when European power metal went from nascence to ascendance