To the tune of “Stormrider” by Iced Earth:
As I travel through the promo bin, I see a tag ahead.
“Featuring the voice of one John Gree-ly,” was what it said.
A smile breaks across my face, my heart fills with delight.
I grab said promo, run away. I scream at Schaffer’s might!
Saying that I love Night of the Stormrider might be an understatement. In fact, it would be one of the few albums I would rate a perfect 5.0. For those poor souls not in the know, John Greely was the singer on that classic album, and I’ve always thought that his place in metal history is quite fascinating. While he fronted what is arguably Iced Earth‘s finest moment, he’s primarily known as the guy that Matt Barlow replaced. Thinking that Greely had disappeared from the dark saga of heavy metal forever, I was delighted to get the chance to check out a new album featuring his voice. On a Mission is the sophomore album from nominally German band Bloody Times and the first to include Greely, and naturally I thought I’d just picked up Night of the Stormrider Part 2.
Well, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that On a Mission is no Stormrider, but that doesn’t mean it’s a total horror show either. On a Mission is nine tracks of straight up heavy metal along the lines of Manowar‘s Louder than Hell. Second track “Fort Sumter” is probably the best example of what the album has in store. Bassist and founder Simon Pfundstein does his best Joey DeMaio impression to kick things off with a ringing bass solo that leads into a galloping riff and a ripping guitar lead. Greely might not spend much time in the unhinged falsetto he used on Stormrider, but his lower registered singing is phenomenal and ironically reminds me of Barlow at times. The chorus of “Curse of Genevieve” finds Greely matching the notes of a melodic riff, lending an epic feel to a mostly mid-paced track. “Future Secret” has a fantastic intro that uses keys, bluesy solos, and that Manowar-style bass to set the stage for a song that ends up sounding like it would fit on a Blaze-era Maiden album.
It doesn’t take long to get the sense that something wicked is lurking on On a Mission, however. Opener “Alliance” stays true to the Manowar vibe of the album and features none other than Ross “The Boss” Friedman on guitar duties. While it has a satisfying mid-paced chug and some killer axemanship from Ross, it’s also at least three minutes too long and a strange way to start the album. “Operation Focus” is an upbeat rocker with some great playing, but it’s far too cheesy to work here. Intentions are good on closer “Day of Collapse” as the band tries to pay homage to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City, but it mainly employs a boring gallop that doesn’t live up to the glorious burden of tackling the weighty subject matter.
After listening to this album, its clear that Bloody Times are at their best when they push the throttle to the floor. “The Revenge” is the closest things get to the power thrash of Night of the Stormrider with Greely unbottling some shrieks he’s kept on the shelf since 1991, and it works like a charm. My favorite song is “Die in a Hole” despite the fact that it has an absurd chorus that finds Greely summarizing the fate of every organism by repeating “Survive or die!” over and over. Greely’s vocals are what brought me to the party, but the guitars are what kept me around. On a Mission has no fewer than seven guitarists, and the solos on here are simply amazing. The album sounds phenomenal when cranked, with deliciously crunching guitars and bass that plays an integral part in the overall sound.
As much as I wanted this to be another classic, I should have known that wasn’t going to happen. While Greely, Pfundstein, and their legion of guitarists give incredible individual performances, they are limited by a set of songs that could never be more than standard heavy metal fare. I’m glad to find that Greely’s voice has aged well, and I hope to hear it again soon on an album worthy of its power.
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Rock’N’Growl Records
Websites: bloodytimes.bandcamp.com | bloodytimes.net | facebook.com/bloodytimesmetal
Releases Worldwide: January 11th, 2019