Steel Attack - Enslaved 2004 Arise Records reviewed by: EC
|Track Listing1. Gates Of Heaven|
2. Out Of The Flames
4. Bless My Sins
5. Immortal Hate
6. Son Of A Thousand Souls
9. When You Dream
I've always said that Steel Attack are the next great band holding the power metal torch for Europe. The problem that has plagued the band has been consistency within their camp, with each album seemingly bringing a new lineup to the frontlines. With this year's release of "Enslaved", the band's second consecutive album for Spain's Arise Records, and fourth studio album to date, the group have again been effected by the winds of change. New singer Ronny Hemlin steps in to take over vocal duties, with this change at the helm marking the band's third singer to date. I'm not sure what is happening internally with these types of bands, but for some reason a steady lineup is really a miracle in this day and age. Is the new change a positive one? I would have to say it is, as I am delighted to hear Hemlin's melodic voice over Steel Attack's masterful approach at Euro metal.
Really the same sound is intact with "Enslaved", the same traditional power metal found on the group's last record "Predator To The Empire". That heavy vibe has returned, along with the band's ability to mature record after record. I really want to say the band has reached superstar status in my opinion, with few European bands living up to this type of standard. With the band's first two efforts they showed off their ability to craft fine, traditional power metal that leaves plenty of room for sprinting around the stage, with Steel Attack always stirring in melodic hooks, rampaging gallops, and that crowd friendly sing along chorus. With their last album they displayed an aggressive side, writing more stomping chops that simply hit harder than their previous material. They managed to blend other elements into their stellar sound to make a more well rounded listen. Yeah, they are the perfect power metal act, and few can top what they have done in such little time. Now they are at the point where they need to start getting recognition. I think "Enslaved" will help further their career, and hopefully land them back on US shores soon.
New singer Ronny Hemlin could best be described as a cross between Wade Black (Crimson Glory, Seven Witches, Leash Law) and Andy B. Frank (Ivanhoe, Symphorce, Brainstorm). He has perfect clarity and enunciation with his speech, and can really do wonderful things with his wide range. He is really something the band has been looking for, and hopefully the guy will stick around longer than a record or two. These guys really need him to stay consistent, and a singer with this much talent is going to be hard to replace. John Allan and Johan Jalonen are teaming up on guitars, with Mike Steel on drums, and Anden Andersson on bass. The album was recorded at Black Lounge Studio, and the main theme behind the record is religion and it's different points of view. Fans of older material will find plenty to like here, and if you are a new fan, Arise Records says this should not even be compared to the previous Steel Attack records as it is the best album from the band. Does it live up to that type of boasting? Well I'll be play double duty this go around and be both metal commentator and analyst. Here is the play by play:
Opener "Gates Of Heaven" starts out extremely heavy, sort of like modern day Edguy with plenty of 80s riffing that pays homage to George Lynch. It builds to a huge chorus to remind you this is a European power metal band, with the epic elements to prove it. "Out Of The Flames" plays second out of the gate, beginning with a little neo-classical shred before hitting Brainstorm strides. The chorus part reminds me of present day Helloween, with heavy chopping on the strings behind it. "Forsaken" is next and is sure to please fans of Wolf with it's new wave attitude. This track has my favorite chorus of the record, a real stirring sing along that rattles the bones. "Immortal Hate" follows with some chaotic death-like drumming followed with some of the album's first stomp riffs showing up here. Hemlin keeps everything in check and never gets too thrashy, always keeping his voice melodic and strong. "Immortal Hate" finishes off the first half of the album with some big 80s rhythm guitar, with the band playing well knit Dokken/Racer X type passages with some Pantera grooves. This song reminds me of what Impellitteri is doing these days.
The second half of the album starts with "Son Of A Thousand Souls", a fast bass driven affair that conjures up moments of Iced Earth before slipping into a more progressive mode. Fans of Stratovarius will enjoy the title track, with some Finnish style power metal served up here. Another great chorus highlights the track and helps make it the best cut of the second half. "Voices" is next to last, a song that uses some Middle East themes within its borders, complete with Arabic styled riffing before turning into a speedy number. The band even throws in some death growls on this song, always keeping it interesting and diverse. "When You Dream" finishes things off with a fun romp through modern power metal, this one being much in the same style as groups like Brainstorm.
So there you have it, the complete wrap up of "Enslaved", in my opinion the best album to date from the band and one that will find itself on plenty of metal journalists "Top 10s" of the year. These guys can do no wrong, and if they can keep this lineup together for a few more albums, Steel Attack could reach the same legendary status as groups like Hammerfall, Blind Guardian, and Masterplan. Steel Attack will appeal to more harder power metal fans, really staying clear of the whole progressive fantasy metal thing. Another great album, and highly recommended for traditional fans. The torch is still lit!