Nothing clings quite so tenaciously to life as a Germanic metal band. Think about it for a moment – all the big names in 80s Kraut thrash are still active, along with nearly all of their 80s power and traditional acts. In essence, Teutonic metal is harder to kill than nail fungus and just as unsightly. Though Iron Savior didn’t come into existence until 97, they’ve proven typically resilient and hard to eradicate, dropping album after album of sci-fi themed Euro-power, mostly centered on a massive, sentient spacecraft known as…Iron Savior. Titancraft is the 9th installment in this sci-fi soap saga and it comes on the heels of 2014s Rise of the Hero, which was their best selling platter to date, but one of their least interesting IMHO. Luckily, Titancraft is like a refresher course on all the things that made Iron Savior such fist-pumping fun on albums like Unification and Dark Assault. It’s 100% Euro-cheese, but delivered with such flair and conviction you’ll learn to tolerate the lactose and come back for more.
After a short, table setting intro, the good ship Savior lifts off once again with bombast and grandiosity to spare on the winning title track. Guided by the atypically gravely and rough vocals of founder Piet Sielk, the music is aggressive, speedy and full of big, over-the-top moments and the epic chorus is the Mack Daddy (and coincidentally, the Daddy Mack). If you’ve heard any prior release you know it’s a lot like old Helloween but heavier and more…manly. This is exactly the music you want from them and it’s a killer tune reminiscent of their classic albums. From there they stick with the kind of songs that have always worked for them and “Way of the Blade,” “Seize the Day” and “The Sun Won’t Rise in Hell” all find that crucial balance between cheese and chest hair while making sure the choruses are big, memorable and generally uplifting.
The standout track is the excellent “Beyond the Horizon” which could sit alongside the best of their catalog. It’s a lot like what Gamma Ray was churning out in the late 90s/early aughts and it has the kind of epic ridiculousness that makes you wield household objects as medieval weaponry. The only songs that stray a bit from the righteous path are the predictable amusing power ballad “I Surrender” and the wild west themed “Gunsmoke.” The former because ballads are not the forte of the band and the latter because it’s just so painfully silly. That said, both songs grow with repeat spins and I’m grudgingly coming to like even the cringe-inducing balladry.
At 50 minutes Titancraft feels about the right length and it’s so catchy it doesn’t ever feel overlong. Production-wise it has that same over-produced, glossy sound all the Iron Savior albums do and that’s fine. At this point it would be silly to expect some raw, primal sound from the Lords of Studio Excess.
As always, I enjoy Piet’s voice and vocal style. He doesn’t sound like every other Euro-weenie screamer and his more masculine delivery grounds the music in traditional metal. Over his career he’s proven himself skilled at crafting catchy vocal hooks and patterns and he hits the mark with big choruses more often than not. While I felt this particular element was missing on Rise of the Hero, it’s here in spades. Piet and Joachim Kustner have a history of writing zippy, aggressive power metal riffs and there are plenty here to sink your teeth into. They keep the riffing heavier than 99% of their ilk and this differentiates their sound in positive ways. The drums always had a somewhat programmed sound to them, as they do here, though performed by long time kit-minder Thomas Nack. It isn’t a big issue, but a more organic sound would give the music a whole new edge.
I’m happy to see Iron Savior get back in their armored wheelhouse and batten down the hatches. Titanfall isn’t on par with their classic albums, but it’s a well done and enjoyable slab of Germanic power with more balls than you might expect. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, nor make a horse drink and you certainly can’t kill German metal bands without resorting to nuclear bombery. Until that day, you must accept your Iron Savior.