Steelwing? Never heard of them. I toss in Lord of the Wasteland to see what I am dealing with and POW!! I get punched right in the face by an angry, metal spiked fist from 1982! This Stockholm, Sweden based band may be young and only formed in 2009, but man can they bring the pure, unadulterated NWOBHM power to the party. On this, their debut album, they shamelessly steal the best recipes from Iron Maiden, Saxon, Grim Reaper and Warlord and cook up a surprisingly fresh sounding, if utterly unoriginal metal meatloaf of riffs and attitude with enough cheese coating to choke a mastodon. Steelwing gives you eight fast and furious traditional metal anthems played by musicians who clearly worship at the altar of early 80’s metal and know exactly how that epoch of metal should sound.
The time traveling party kicks off with Enter the Wasteland, an intro track that sounds more than a little like Diamondhead’s “Am I Evil” (and I am 100% sure that was intentional). This intro gives fair warning of exactly how these youngsters intend to bludgeon you for the next hour. What follows is one classic 80’s metal onslaught after another that will transport older listeners back to a time when this whole “heavy metal” thing was new, exciting and unpredictable. If you were a metal fan in the 80’s, you simply can’t hear tracks like “Roadkill” (the first single and video), “Headhunter” or “The Nightwatcher” and not smile ear to ear.
All the songs feature Maiden-esque guitar riffs, galloping drumming and some WAY over the top metal vocals by frontman Riley. In fact, so over the top are the vocals at times that you have to wonder if certain parts of the poor guy’s anatomy are stuck in a crushing device (ex. near the end of “The Illusion,” guys, don’t try to hit that note while singing along or you’ll be visiting the doctor for an unpleasant adjustment). Every track is straight forward in structure and all exemplify good, old fashioned, metal songwriting. There aren’t any really weak tracks here and all rock pretty damn hard (“Roadkill”, “The Illusion”, and “Headhunter” being my personal favorites). The production is crisp and clear enough to bring everything over properly and the instruments are all given their own space and chance to shine. The lyrics are so painfully metal and cliched that even Manowar would cringe and look away, but that only adds to the cheesy fun factor. This is exactly why Lord of the Wasteland works so well. It’s fun as hell!
The star of Lord of the Wasteland is undoubtedly the guitar work by Robby Rockbag (awe-inspiring pseudonym) and fellow axe man Alex and together they generate one catchy, memorable riff after another and keep things blasting along at a breakneck pace throughout. This album is an air guitar player’s wet dream and may cause guitar elbow if not used in moderation. Honorable mention has to go to vocalist Riley, who I hope suffered no debilitating groin injuries during the recording of this album.
Fun and pure nostalgia aside, if you have a soft spot in your angry metal heart for the type of music that was being churned out by Iron Maiden and Saxon in the early 80’s, then Lord of the Wasteland should be a big hit and take you back in time. Steelwing knows how to write and play some very catchy and infectious metal and they put on a clinic of era-specific metal worship (like Hammerfall without all the poserism). Well, since I’m stuck back in 1982 now, I’m going to write Kill Em All before Metallica does and put them out of business before they grow up and destroy the world. All Hail the Past!