Possessed Steel – Aedris Review

Looks like 2020 isn’t done throwing swords just yet! In the wake cut by Megaton Sword and Eternal Champion comes the battle hungry debut by Canadian trve metallers Possessed Steel. This means war chanting, armor plating and blade worship is back on the menu as this youthful troop regales us with MOAR tales of dungeons, draGONES, demons and distemper. All the expected influences are checked off, so you’ll hear nods to Visigoth, Iron Maiden, and Cirith Ungol, but unlike those acts, Possessed Steel dabble in harsh vocals and slightly blackened elements at times to set them apart from the ravening hordes. Can such innovative heresy exist in the world of trveness? Let us convene the Council of Iron Judgment.

After an expendable intro, the band show you their wares with “Spellblade” and the showing is a good one. It’s like a more mellow, melodic Visigoth and it works as such. It has that classic metal sound and it makes up for the lack of warmongering with hooks and a laid back vibe. It isn’t until “Keeper in the Woods” that the steel trvly gets possessed, with a hodge-podge of early Iron Maiden, Queensryche and Cirith Ungol taking the sword stage. It brings a measured approach to rousing the filthy rabble for warfare and features some quality riff-work and guitar harmonies. This is where the harsh, blackened vocals make their first appearance, and I must say, they don’t add much to the mix. In fact, they detract from what is an otherwise solid if unremarkable trve metal romp because they seem so halfhearted. “Assault of the Twilight Keep” is the most aggressive number, sounding like Pharaoh mixed with early Helstar, and this is where the band shines brightest. The manly vocals soaring over the urgent, old school riff-work is effective and the song is a banger of the ancient school. I want an album’s worth of this kind of hack n’ sack balladry. “Bogs of Agathorn” is also quite good, managing to be both goofy and fist pumping as it tells tales of LARP and swamp carp. This is the kind of song you find yourself singing out loud and people look at you like you’re off your nut. It shares some similarities to the recent Wytch Hazel, which helps endear it to me, and it’s a fun, quirky tune.

Unfortunately, not all that is possessed is Steel worthy. There are several songs here that show the band is still learning how to write and searching for their identity. “Frost Lich” makes the biggest push to marry the trve and the black, but the end result is awkward and ineffective. It has some decent moments but things never seem to come together as the two styles grate on each other. The remainder of Aedris is full of songs with potential that fail to work completely. I like much of what I hear over the 7-plus minutes of “Skeleton King” and there’s a lot of vintage guitar-work to appreciate, but nothing really sticks with me when the song ends. Closer “Nobunaga” is similar but suffers from a series of awkward transitions as blackened ideas appear and disappear, giving it a patched together, unfinished feel. It’s pretty clear the style itself has potential, but the band hasn’t fully mastered the proper execution required to make these sword songs sing.

Talon Sullivan and Steve Mac cobble together some fine trve metal riffs and old timey twin guitar harmonies over the course of Aedris and their talent is apparent. Likewise, Talon’s vocals fit the classic metal sound well. He isn’t blessed with a huge range, but one isn’t required to pull this style off. It’s the forays into harsh vocals that undermine the crusade. They sound more corny than serious and the lack of power behind them makes their inclusion a bane rather than a boon. This isn’t helped by the often awkward transitions between the styles. There’s a nagging cheesiness to the whole thing that hamstrings my enjoyment of otherwise good tuneage which would normally have a proud place in the wheelhouse ov Steel.

Though there are some issues with the finished product on Aedris, I hear a heap of potential in what Possessed Steel is doing. This reminds of Crypt Sermon‘s sophomore outing in that I don’t fully embrace the approach but I think something good will come of it in the future. Though Aedris partially misses the mark, there are enjoyable moments to be found and this is a band to watch. I pray that the spirits guide this Steel to high adventure next time out.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Temple of Mystery
Websites: possessedsteel.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/possessedsteelofficial
Releases Worldwide: November 30th, 2020

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