Luzifer – Iron Shackles Review

A question was posed on Twitter, the most reliable source of information in the world, earlier this year asking which up-and-coming band was going to be the Next Big Thing. Someone commented that Luzifer was that band, and seeing March promo just sitting there all forlorn, I grabbed it. I knew nothing about them, and there’s a good chance you, dear reader, did not either. Turns out this German trio is three-fifths of the speed metal band Vulture, and Iron Shackles is their first full-length release (although I use “full-length” generously, as this is essentially six songs and 32 minutes, plus a short segue track). Can they slow things down and harness the power of olde-school metal?

Things certainly start out in promising fashion, with the title track harkening back to the glory days of German giants Scorpions and Accept. Fist-pumping gang chants, classic guitar tone, and even an opening falsetto burst to rival that of Papa Emeritus on the new Ghost album all contribute to a kick-ass opening. A more obscure reference, however, and one the band readily admits to, is 70’s act Quartz, a British act perhaps most well-known for guitarist/keyboardist Geoff Nichols (Black Sabbath, etc). Their song “Satan’s Serenade” is an obvious influence on “Iron Shackles.” The band closes things out in excellent fashion as well, with the (obvious) galloper “Attila (Blazing Hooves),” another great song that, aside from the horrible organ sounds, would feature strongly on any trad-metal playlist.

“Wrath of the Sorcerers” also revives the classic metal days, with a cute hi-hat counting in and a killer opening riff. The jovial organ playing, which randomly permeates nearly every track, has to go. No idea what Luzifer is going for with this sound. Optimistically, maybe they’re aiming for a 1950’s B-movie creepiness? Regardless, whenever the organ starts trilling away it ruins the songs, and it is most offensive here and on “Barrow Downs.” On a more positive note, though, there’s a fun cover of the old Joachim Witt hit song “Der Goldene Reiter.”1 It’s a fairly straightforward hard rock take on a super cheesy 80’s song (if you must, and I think you do, go check out the video here and come back) that I daresay is better, but maybe that’s because there isn’t an accompanying video.

The production on Iron Shackles brings a lot of joy to my ears. The deft mastering touch (DR9) certainly helps; we aren’t used to having such a dominant snare drum in this day and age. The guitars possess a wonderful 80’s crunch, and while the drums might have a touch too much reverb on them, the sought-after vibe Luzifer is going for here is attained. The problems are twofold, and the first has been mentioned already: the god-awful and ever-present organ. Every time the sprightly notes blare out, seemingly at random, I am forced to resist the urge to dance a jig. Think of the organ playing of a classic act such as Deep Purple; now think of the opposite. There you go. There’s no credit given to a keyboard player in the promo notes, and honestly I wouldn’t want to take credit for it either. The second issue here is the drumming. Listening to a song like “Hexer (In Dreiteufelsnamen)” makes me wonder if he’s even playing the same song. The man can carry groove, but his fills are a hot mess. Classic over-drumming at times.

At its best, Iron Shackles reminds one of Megaton Sword, with some great riffs and foot-stomping anthems. When focused, Luzifer’s homage to the 70’s and 80’s is on point and a ton of fun. Far too often, though, we witness rather bizarre arrangements with comical organ playing that detract from how good this band could be if they focused on the hard rock side of things. Chalk this one up as a near miss, and call me when the organ player is sent into retirement.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps MP3
Label: High Roller Records
Releases Worldwide: March 25th, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. The band sings half the tracks here in German, half in English.
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