In the “Barons of Bombast” wing of the Pantheon of Metal, no band has a pedestal quite as lofty as Manowar. Since their birth in the late 70s, they’ve pretty much cornered the market on over-the-top cliches, cheese-wizardry and shameless loincloth abuse. One of the few pretenders to that furry, mead-stained throne of excess (besides Rhapsody, Rhapsody of Fire, Rhapsody of Luca, etc. etc.) are these Germanic purveyors of silly sci-fi lyrics, steely anthems and lusty over-production. It’s true, Iron Savior has never shied away from painful cliches, absurdly goofy concepts or exaggerated paeans to things metallic. If their multi-album concept about the misadventures of a sentient spaceship called “Iron Savior” wasn’t proof enough for you, don’t pursue a career in investigative services. In case you missed the back story, Iron Savior is the creation of one Piet Sielck, a close friend and former band mate of Kai Hansen (Helloween, Gamma Ray). The early Savior albums were close collaborations between Piet and Kai, firmly rooted in Germanic power metal but injected a lot of traditional and NWOBHM influences into the mix. Their material was so damn catchy and fun, I didn’t mind the silly space-opera lyrics or their propensity to sound overdone (a friend dubbed them “the most overproduced band ever”). The Landing is the first new Savior release since 2007’s Megatropolis and long-time fans can breathe easy, because absolutely nothing has changed! The bombast, the cheese, the vintage sound and style, it’s all back, bigger than ever (if that’s even possible). This is big boy power/traditional metal with attitude, balls and delusions of grandeur. In other words, its stupid fun and really rocks!
After a throw-away intro, Iron Savior lands their plane (spaceship) with “The Savior.” This is 110% classic Savior-music and it’s both charmingly familiar and fun. Piet’s rough, atypical power metal vocals are great as always and his guitar work (along with Joachim Kustner) is thick, chunky and aggressive. The chorus is huge, hooky and epic as many Savior choruses are (the backing vocals are great) and the whole thing is almost TOO metal, if that makes any sense. Followups like “Starlight,” “Moment in Time” and “Faster Than All” blast along at warp speed, almost approaching thrash territory at times, but they always keep it catchy and tongue-in-metal-cheek.
The big fun comes along with “Heavy Metal Never Dies,” which could have been penned by Manowar themselves and Joey DeMaio will likely claim it as his own. This is the type of knuckleheaded “I love metal” anthem that makes you roll your eyes but still ends up in your stereo for weeks. It’s guilty pleasure metal and it makes me feel bad for liking it so much. Other happy moments of genre exploitation include “Hall of Heroes” (love the guitar harmonies) and “No Guts No Glory” (fun guitar, even more fun chorus). When it comes to writing addicting, memorable power metal, Iron Savior still pisses excellence.
This, like all Savior albums is a very guitar-driven affair. I always enjoyed their sound because the guitars were so much heavier than most Euro-Power weenies. The tone here is expectedly thick and mean and it keeps things heavy even when they add tons of keys and get all epic on your ass (“The Savior,” “Hall of Heroes”). Add in Piet’s rough, Lemmy-meets-Jorn vocals and a low-end, bass-heavy mix and it results in a manly take on what can often be a fruity style. Piet and Joachim excel at crafting aggressive, zippy riffs that propel the songs along and they pull off a series of typically metal-tastic solos. Everything sounds crunchy and tight and despite the liberal use of effects and keys, they still sound like a rowdy metal band (kinda like Gamma Ray meets Motorhead).
It’s great to have Iron Savior back after a long hiatus. Like Manowar or a movie like Underworld, to fully enjoy it you must suspend disbelief and embrace the gourmet cheese. This is a big, bold and bombastic collection of trad/power metal hits and it would be a shame to miss the fun because of a self-imposed lactose intolerance. Take your pill and climb aboard Savior Airlines. The flight attendants will be serving ale and mutton once we reach rockin speed.