Iron Savior can’t be fought, Iron Savior can’t be sought. Brought to life in 1997 by original Helloween frontman Piet Sielck, the band’s made a respectable career for themselves by beefing up the base sound of Piet’s genre-defining former act with traditional and NWoBHM influences, resulting in a gritty, cantankerous hybrid. Kill or Get Killed is their tenth album in this meat n’ fancy taters style, and they sound none the worse for wear after 21 years in the iron trenches. You still get their trademark Helloween meets Judas Priest approach and a collection of bigger-than-life choruses with a healthy dose of fromage, as well as a veteran’s ear for hooks. Getting down to brass tacks, this a group of old fudds still making metal because they love it, and I strongly relate to that, since I’m now a very old fudd myself just over the dreaded 50 line. So, can you expect new tricks from such well seasoned metal dudes?
Not exactly, but they do make the old tricks sound fairly fresh, fun and spry most of the time. The classic Iron Savior sound rings loud and proud on the opening title track as Mr, Sielck and company adroitly blend the bombast of Euro-power with the crunch of Iced Earth and season the fractious casserole with NWoBHM harmonies. Heavy riffs and rough, raspy vocals keep things grounded as the song gallops along, and the chorus flies wild and free like any above-par Helloween number of yore. It’s hardly a new recipe or exotic fusion, but it works, as it has for decades. Followup cut “Roaring Thunder” dials up the heavy riffage for something more in line with Painkiller era Judas Priest, and it’s all the better for it. “Eternal Quest” is the album’s grand champion, with exuberant riffing and a righteous, fist-in-the-air chorus that’s hard to resist. “From Dust and Rubble” sounds like it came from either Priest‘s Turbo or Pretty Maid‘s Future World, and it’s a rocking, rolling slice of retro metal. The entire first half of the album plays like a wily group of vets having fun making music and doing it well, and the energy is infectious.
The second-half isn’t bad either, though it’s a bit less hook-tastic. I do enjoy their foray into Avantasia territory on “Never Stop Believing,” with its cheese platter catchiness and poppy Meatloaf-isms. I can almost hear Jørn singing the chorus, so you know I’m on board. “Until We Meet Again’ is an unusual choice for the band – a nearly 8-minute mid-tempo power ballad that channels the spirit of Priest‘s immortal “Desert Plains.”1 It’s way too long, but a decent song nonetheless with solid vocals, and it definitely packs nostalgic appeal for ancient metal codgers.
At a relatively concise 49 minutes, Kill or Get Killed does well to keep most of the songs short and sweet, delivering the hooks and promptly decamping. The band knows their craft and executes it well, with no song being filler-level. The production is good, with a burly, crunchy guitar tone that keeps the material heavy enough. The bass is generally audible and keyboards are used sparingly and effectively to add a synthy, retro feel. Piet Sielck continues to define the Savior sound with his atypical for power metal rough, gruff vocal attack. This combined with the heavier than usual guitars from Sielck and Joachim Kustner creates something more muscular than most Euro-power bands deliver. What’s always made the band successful however, is their ability to write highly accessible tunes that resonate with fans of classic and power metal. They’ve still got that ability, though their recent output doesn’t approach the brilliance of early albums like Unification and Dark Assault.
Iron Savior remains in their comfort zone on Kill or Get Killed, and that’s just fine as the results are solid and enjoyable. No frills or big surprises here, nor is there chaff to impede the metallic momentum. If you liked what the band’s done in the past, buy with confidence. If you’re new to the show, I’d recommend the early albums over this, but you can do a lot worse for a rollicking metal fix. They may be olde, but these dogs can still metal with the best of em’, and that earns my Steel ov Approval. Iron Savior can’t be killed, Iron Savior, time for your pills.2