It’s hard to remain trve in such false times. Wear a broadsword into the local supermarket and you’ll get many a suspicious glance. Build an enormous stone monument to Ye Old Gods on your front lawn and you’ll invariably run into trouble with the town Zoning Board. Sacking weaker neighbors and carrying off their daughters? Forget all about it. Such are the cursed times we live in. But when the going gets tough, the trve get going, and that’s why Ironsword is so damn important. These mysterious Portuguese overlords of trveness release albums only when the planets align and the dragon moon is in peak ascension, but when they do, you best brace yourself. None But the Brave is their first since 2008 but no amount of time changes the stone and steel behemoth that is Ironsword. This is exactly the same fusion of Manilla Road, Iron Maiden, Brocas Helm and Cirith Ungol they’re known for and it is…glorious. It’s also righteous, virtuous, meritorious and sacrilicious. Many won’t appreciate its iron fisted might, but that’s because their hammers aren’t big enough. If you’re among those weak fools, you must stop reading, attach the Cone of Shame and know the shame of cones.
If you’ve been afflicted by Low T since Manowar forsook the faithful and forgot the Riddle of Steel, opener “Forging the Sword” will set the world right again. Sounding like a steroidal mix of Branded and Exiled era Running Wild and Manilla Road, it’s sheer awesomeness cannot be denied. It’s so old school, it’s properly called old gymnasium, and its cheese is of the finest variety. J.M.’s odd vocals are as loveable as always and he can sound like Nocturno Culto (Darkthrone) one minute, and Mark Shelton (Manilla Road) or Lemmy the next. This is the kind of song that makes you remember why you fell in love with metal in the first place, and what could be better than that?
The rest of None But the Brave over delivers on the ass kickery. “Kings of the Night” sounds like Thor meeting Cirith Ungol for a trial by combat and the winner is you. “Calm Before the Storm” has a huge Maiden influence, solos that recall the Ross the Boss era of Manowar and the nasally, Shelton-esque delivery of the chorus is the steely icing on top. The title track is more manly than Manowar and will send you looking for the nearest hill to proclaim yourself the King of same. “Vengeance Will Be Mine” is a two-minute song you’ll wish was twelve, and the chorus of ‘By the hammer, by the sword, vengeance will be mine” is rabble rousing enough to cause serious problems between you and the modern legal system. “Eye For an Eye” stands out because it sounds like an onstage duet between Timmy Baker (Cirith Ungol) and Mark Shelton, and that my droogs, is as metal as metal can get without causing a nuclear singularity in Valhalla.
There’s not much diversity here and every song thuds and gallops along in angry horde mode, but it matters not since they’re all such cornball fun. The closest they come to a curve ball is closer “The Shadow Kingdom” with its more deliberate pacing and higher pitched vocals, but it’s only a slight reprieve in what is a 47 minute headlong battle charge.
As with all Ironsword albums, they pummel with thick, galloping riffs and Steve Harris-esque bass noodling. J.M. is a master at old gymnasium riffery and every song feels like it was lifted from 1982 and frozen for posterity. The playing may be simple in structure, but it pays huge dividends in energy and nostalgia. His solo work is surprisingly tasteful and emotional and though it too is stuck in metal’s earliest days, its lost none of its ability to resonate with the modern music fan. Vocally, J.M. is one-of-a-kind. His weird, gravelly shout always worked far better than it should, and his warbly singing suits the music to its Viking core. There’s no doubt he patterned it on Mark Shelton’s time-honored quirkiness, but it works, so who cares if he’s imitating a legend. Jorge Martins’ bass thumpery is also quite impressive and his urgent rumbling underpins the Ironsword sound as surely as Steve Harris lays the foundation for Maiden.
Ironsword has never released a bad album, but this may well be their most enjoyable from start to finish. If Conan the Barbarian had an iPod, he’d listen to this before battles. If Kull the Conqueror had a Walkman, he’d listen to the cassette version. If you are the master of your fate and captain of your soul, this should be on your play scroll. Stop screwing around and join the Legion of the Trve, we happy Trve.