IRON MASK – REVENGE IS MY NAME

Iron Mask - Revenge Is My Name

Out now on Lion Music
The first review posted on the old site in 2002.

Iron Mask is the side project of Magic Kingdom lead guitarist Dushan Petrossi. With a sound firmly planted in the neo-classical genre the obvious comparisons are going to be thrown towards the mighty Yngwie. But to those that have more than a passing interest in this genre can generally get round the influence that Malmsteen seems to have on everyone in the genre and just get on with enjoying the music that is on offer.

Its with this outlook that we move onto Iron Mask. “Revenge Is My Name” is a concept album based around the story of ‘The Man In The Iron Mask’, first of all this is detour from the normal neo-classical lyrical subject of vikings etc. To be perfectly honest I didn’t pay too much attention to the lyrics or the vocals except for one track – “Hold The Light”. Maybe the reason this track stood out is down to the fact that it features a different vocalist in Max Leclerq, whilst the rest of the album is handled by the relatively average sounding Phil Letawe. Letawe falls into the trap of the normal neo-classical vocal histrionics and generally came across sounding a little uninspired. Whereas Leclerq had a much more positive delivery, albeit on the most commercial sounding track on the album.

The bass and drum performances are very solid, brimming with energy and precision on the instrumental “Morgana’s Castle”. But the star of the show is the man with his name on the album cover – Dushan Petrossi.

The guitar work is of the very highest caliber, it bristles with harmonic excitement, speedy riffs, harmonised runs, and the gamut of solo flights to make even the most hardened air guitarist feeling exhausted. Yes there’s a lot of guitar on this album but there’s also a lot of melody. Petrossi shows considerable skill when it comes to incorporating classical pieces into rock textures. Silky arpeggio work outs are deftly followed up by pedal point movements before roaring to a crescendo of super tight speed picking – this kid can play!

Standout cuts include the concerto-esque opener “Enemy Brother Overture”. “March Of Victory” has a very classy opening with grand piano over which Dushan laces subtle acoustic work before blasting into a prime riff. This is pure neo-classical glory and Letawe’s vocals do work well here, sounding like a slightly gruffer Joey Tempest. The chorus is superb on this one, the riffing underneath again working its wonders. “Morgana’s Castle” is an impressive instrumental workout, one that Ynwgie and Johansson would be proud off – great stuff.
“You Are My Blood” sees the huge european vibe continue in this ballad, this could easily have come from Malmsteen’s ‘Eclipse’, the quality is that good. “The Wolf & The Beast” clocking in at over 8 minutes could be viewed as the “epic” of the album, luckily the song structure backs up this view with its great rampant riffing and strong orchestration. Petrossi’s guitar work is again superb throughout getting a lot of solo time here.

“Hold The Light” is by comparison quite a contrast to the rest of the album in terms of style, coming across as more prime late 80’s commercial metal, the track is stunning, great riff, great verses and chorus and all backed up by Petrossi’s superb fretboard flurries.  As stated earlier in the review the vocals of Max Leclerq of Dushan’s other band Magic Kingdom go a long way to making this track standing out, also the production seems to be stronger than elsewhere on the album with better mix and a superb blend between guitar and orchestral movements. The album is worth the price of purchase for this track alone!

“Revenge Is My Name” is for the bulk an enjoyable slice of neo-classical metal, the production does let it down in places, but then Dushan is not working with the kind of budget Malmsteen has. Even so the quality of the album shines through for the most part and the main blip of the vocals eventually fades behind the superb guitar work and other band performances.

Fans of Malmsteen will get a lot from this, as will fans of quality guitar work.

Hot Spots : March Of Victory, The Wolf & The Beast, Hold The Light, Warchild Requiem.
Rating : 84%

IRON MASK – HORDES OF THE BRAVE

Out now on Lion Music

Originally released in 2005 and reviewed on the old incarnation of Virtuosity One (posted 23/8/2005), here is a timely reminder now the album has received a limited edition digipack reissue on Lion Music which is available now.

Dushan Petrossi has been extremely prolific over the last few years, first was the debut Iron Mask release ‘Revenge Is My Name’, the 2004 Magic Kingdom release “Metallic Tragedy” was one of the highlights of the year and now Dushan has gone and released another cracker.

The second Iron Mask album entitled “Hordes Of The Brave” sees Mr Petrossi raise the bar once again for his own compositions. The album sees a much more powerful production than the debut, the song writing is better and the overall performances are superb. Strictly speaking this is a classic neo-classical release with hints of power metal and more commercial waters, the mix between lead guitar glory and riffing is excellent, with the emphasis always being “for the track” from Dushan.

Petrossi has brought in a stunning new vocalist in the form of Goetz Mohre who is actually an old friend of guest vocalist Oliver Hartmann (ex At Vance). There is also the appearance of virtuosityone.com favourite Richard Andersson for keyboard solos. Dushan has again utilised the excellent rhythm section of Magic Kingdom (Vassili Moltchanov and Anton Arkhipov).

Opener “Holy War” sets the tone with his neo-classically fused opening riff before turning into more straightforward Painkiller era Judas Priest for the verse, the chorus is classic Power Metal. The track is not the most subtle on the album and by no means the strongest but it does make a solid statement of intent and Petrossi’s soloing really grabs the attention.

“Freedoms Blood – The Patriot” is where the album starts to fire on all cylinders with its superb riff, with nice keyboard orchestration, this leads into a great straight riffing verse and a good pre-chorus before the anthemic chorus has soaring vocals from Goetz Mohre. The solo is simply superb opening with a classical motif from Dushan before the first of Richard Andersson’s solos floors you. Petrossi answers this charge with equal aplomb almost melting his fretboard, but make sure you check out the attention to detail in the backing – for the record this solo duel is a throw back to prime Rising Force trade-offs between Malmsteen and Jens Johansson.

“Time” sees the pace slow and the mood get more melodic for this excellent slice of straight metal. Petrossi shows great depth as a writer here, and the performances from all involved are first class. The transition between verse/pre-chorus/chorus is superb and fans of acts like Masterplan will absolutely love this.

“The Invisible Empire” has another cracking riff yet with the emphasis on melody, not a million miles away from Eclipse-era Malmsteen in this respect. Again the vocal melody is a vital part of the track and the vocal delivery from Oliver Hartmann’s first appearance makes a lasting impression. The guitar solo is another gem seeing Dushan work well with the backing provided beneath. A brief instrumental segment paves way for another solo from Richard Andersson which sees his trademark use of the pitch wheel work to good effect, overall an excellent track.

The breakneck “Demon’s Child” sees the tone enter more into epic metal territories of the likes of Rhapsody before the strong neo-classical middle section leads us into another bout of frantic solo trading between Petrossi and Andersson – great great stuff.

“High In The Sky” is another powerhouse track that the likes of Iron Maiden would kill to own, its simple riff allows Goetz Mohr to really show what he can. This guy has a killer pair of lungs based somewhat between that of Jorn Lande, Bruce Dickinson with a hint of DC Cooper too, this track is likely to be contender for track of the 2005.

“Alexander The Great-Hordes Of The Brave” is an epic a track as the title would suggest with its dark, mystical slow tempo overtones that is testament to the skills Petrossi possesses. The track has everything in it with the slow pre-solo segment really upping the atmosphere before one of Dushan’s best solo’s on the album really cut through…excellent stuff.

Fans of Odyssey era Malmsteen will love “Crystal Tears” beginning with its majestic keyboard refrain before Dushan’s Strat doubles the riff. This could have come straight from Malmsteen’s “Odyssey” such is the quality. Oliver Hartmann’s voice works the vocal melody to its full giving a great delivery. Dushan conjures up a suitably skilled solo which stays true to the melodic nature of the track yet manages to squeeze enough fretboard excess to satisfy the most hardcore of virtuoso guitar fans. The classy chorus sees the track out.

“Iced Winds Of The North” kicks off with some chilling sound effects before a fast intricate riff smacks you in the face. There is a nice neo-classical / power metal vibe here, the lyrics tell tales of yore with Hartmann and Mohr duet-ing on the track. The solo section is again straight from the top drawer, consisting of a Celtic feeling single note motif (not to dissimilar to Malmsteen’s Braveheart).

The energy level and mood drops considerably for the power ballad “My Eternal Flame” which has a great European sound to it reminding me of the some of the great Scandi-metal acts such as Treat or Zeelion. The reduced tempo of the track allows Dushan plenty of space to throw in an emotional solo and he comes up with a gem of a solo, very melodic and classical in nature making nice use of harmonisation which makes the song classier. The great heartfelt chorus takes a modulation up and sees the track out.

Album closer “Troops Of Avalon” is another gem, starting with a riff that is quite Schenker-esque (think Captain Nemo) before it turns into a more metal delivery. As the title might suggest the track tells the tale of brave soldiers on a mission, the triplet led chorus has a nice regal touch. The vocal delivery from Goetz is again top notch showing great gusto and power which helps keep the track moving along at a cracking pace and closes the album in fine style.

‘Hordes Of The Brave’ is simply a superb ride through neo-classical and power metal territories that doesn’t see the quality drop anywhere throughout the 11 track on offer. Dushan Petrossi is now a very serious force top be reckoned within the neo-classical/power metal genre and this album should see the Malmsteen-clone tag ripped up and thrown in the bin as it (along with Metallic Tragedy) clearly apparent that Petrossi has his own sound and vision.

Simply if you want a cracking slice of neo-classical power metal then “Hordes Of The Brave” is an essential purchase.

Hot Spots : Freedom’s Blood, The Invisible Empire, High In The Sky, Crystal Tears
Rating : 95%

MAGIC KINGDOM – SYMPHONY OF WAR

Out now on Limb Music

“Symphony Of War” has been six years in the making.  Quite a time frame between releases yet its not as if band leader/guitarist Dushan Petrossi has been resting on his laurels as this time frame has seen 2 releases from Petrossi’s neo-classical band Iron Mask.  That said, just one listen to the intricate nature of this new Magic Kingdom album shows that a massive amount of work has been put into it. 

First off was the small matter of writing the epic story behind “Symphony Of War” (yes the album is of a concept nature), the tale is for all to see in the very impressive inlay booklet where it seems no expense has been spared (and I heartily recommend the limited 2 cd slipcase edition for loads of extras! ). Then there was the task of finding a lead vocalist to replace the departed Max Leclerq,  no mean feat yet the band have pulled in a worthy successor in the guise of Olaf Hayer (Dionysus).  Couple this with the actual recording, production and mixing of the album which was delayed due to a serious injury to mixer/masterer Uwe Lulis and you can see how the years might build up.

Sonically “Symphony Of War” appears like a soundtrack for a blockbuster history movie. The sound is influenced by classical music, heavy riffing, big choirs and mighty melodies, notwithstanding first-class Metal attacks and a well-balanced heaviness. All in if you like metal chances are you will be able to get into this, if you don’t mind a big grandiose delivery.

It would be easy to say the album is more of the same from the band, as from a quick initial listen all the Magic Kingdom trademarks are present and correct.  Yet Petrossi has seen fit to throw in a little more aggression and more melody this time around amongst the barrage of speed riffs and frantic drumming. Olaf Hayer works incredibly well with his vocal power and range being perfectly well suited to the pompous sound.  To give a detailed analysis of each song would be akin to writing the lord of the rings trilogy such is the depth of the music on offer.  Yet each track works well on its own sitting with personal favourites coming in the form of “We Rise”, “Evil Magician” and “In The Name Of Heathen Gods”.

If the 10 tracks of “Symphony Of War” weren’t enough the ltd edition bonus disc has the 5 part movement “Metallic Tragedy – Chapter 2: The Holy Pentalogy”.  This clocks in just shy of 30 minutes and is arguably better than the other disc.  Divided into 5 separate movements which is almost half an hour long (29min 06) the music is even more grandiose and enriched with strong orchestration and a very vision of its intent. 4 different vocalists (Olaf Hayer/ Roma Duadketsju / Geraldine Gadaut / Herbie Langhans) play different characters whilst narration of the story comes from Lance King (Balance Of Power).  Sonically it’s not produced to quite the standard of disc 1 yet as a bonus there can be no complaints. Add to this a video clip for “We Rise”, a video interview with the band, some pc wallpapers and a poster of the great album artwork round out the ltd edition version – the value for money judge says “case dismissed!”.

Overall “Symphony Of War” must go down as the strongest Magic Kingdom release to date.  Given that its predecessor “Metallic Tragedy” was rather darn good shows how impressive this is.  Certainly it’s Dushan Petrossi’s most ambitious releases to date and epic metal fans should make this a part of their collections today without hesistation.

Highly recommended.

Rating – 95%

IRON MASK – SHADOW OF THE RED BARON (REVIEW)

Out now on Lion Music

Back after 4.5 years from the scene are neo-classical merchants Iron Mask.  However, whilst the sound is firmly rooted in a neo-classical basis there is a stronger than ever melodic vibe throughout the album makes this a versatile and accessible album for more discerning straight metal fans.   

Led by guitar whiz Dushan Petrossi the line-up is mostly consistent with its predecessor ‘Hordes Of The Brave’ so once again we have powerhouse vocalist Goetz ‘Valhalla Jnr’ Mohre whose voice is a nice mix of Dio and Dickinson and longterm bassist Vassili Moltchanov in now joined by drummer Eric Stout (Joe Stump band) with keyboardist Andreas Lindahl (Murder Of My Sweet) completing the lineup.  The album is home to 11 tracks, 1 of which is an instrumental and anyone who appreciated the sound of ‘Hordes Of The Brave’ is going to love this new effort.

Opening with the 7 minute epic “Shadow Of The Red Baron” is a bold move but ultimately a gripping start. Set at a frantic pace, with riffs firing from all angles, the production is tight with Stout’s drums exploding from the speakers.  Anyone that has missed the classic neo-classical tinted metal Malmsteen produced in his prime will get a serious thrill out of this track.  Valhalla Jnr’s vocals soar throughout whilst the guitar/keyboard interplay in the solo section is pure bliss. A cracking start.   

“Dreams” is up next serving up a classic Maiden style triplet/gallop motif, lead vocals are performed by Oliver Hartmann (a long term Iron Mask associate, his voice also supplies the numerous choirs heard throughout).  The track itself it commercial sounding neo-classically tinted metal with a chorus of the highest quality.  A classical interlude pummels you for the start of the solo section before Dushan delivers a fret melting  yet highly melodic solo.

The stunning quality continues unabated for “Forever In The Dark”, more mid tempo than its predecessors this is classic track from start to finish, opening with a keyboard motif which leads way to harmonised guitars before breaking down into Gregorian chants before the verse kick  in solidly.   The chorus is once again addictive, as is the instrumental middle section which has a Michael Schenker-ish tint to these ears.    This is first rate melodic metal of the highest order.

“Resurrection” sees the tempo drop down a few notches further, yet the heaviness intensify for this Egyptian tinted track.  The track is well worked, with the multi tracked choirs working extremely well, however the lead vocal performance is equally stunning. 

“Sahara” is back to punchy commercial neo-classically tinted album and wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Malmsteen’s “Odyssey” album such is its quality.  Dushan’s lead guitar is flanked by a guest solo from Lars Eric Mattsson before a deft solo from Lindahl sees us back into the catchy chorus.

“Black Devil Ship” is arguably the only weak spot on the album, with its mock pirate theme complete with jolly roger riff, albeit delivered in a style reminiscent of Iron Maiden.  It’s not a terrible track, but does come across more as a novelty number.

“We Will Meet Again” quickly rectifies its predecessor’s shortcomings in another fantastic slice of melodic metal.  Once again a melodically rich harmonised riff will snag you in right away, but the way the track builds through the verses into the chorus is also addictive as hell.  The chorus will see the power metal crowd reaching to the skies in delight and once again it’s another fine success.

“Universe” is one of the fastest tracks on the album being very grandiose in its delivery, and the classically rich middle section before scorching guitar/keyboard dual solo section only adds to majestic feel.

The lone ballad “We Will Meet Again” is a heartfelt number, written about the death of Dushan’s mother the track is exquisite with its female choirs, acoustic guitar.  Valhalla Jnr shows his versatility on this number through a wide range of tonalities and ranges, why he isn’t mentioned with the metal elite is surely just a matter of time. 

“Only The Good Die Young” is back to what this album has delivered in spades, extremely strong classic metal with a commercial punch, yet still managing to retain a heaviness that should see European metal fans rejoicing.  The solo trade off here is again a nice addition.

Instrumental “Ghost Of The Tzar” is as epic as its title suggests.  Its metallic flair is backed by a classical punch, and the use of growling vocals sees them add musical merit to the composition.  Naturally the nature of the music is likely to sees comparisons to Mr. Malmsteen, but again Yngwie has not produced anything this good in a few years now.

With “Shadow Of The Red Baron” one can only hope that Iron Mask’s stock rises in the metal world as this is a stunning album pretty much from start to finish.  The songwriting is first and foremost the key here, Petrossi has developed in his craft nicely with each album and its hard to see how he will top this effort. Naturally the musical performances are first rate, yet all serve to compliment the songs as opposed to over power them.  The production of the album is strong being mixed and mastered by Jen Bogren (Symphony X, Opeth etc) and really it’s the icing on the cake of a superb album. 

What a way to start 2010!
 
Hot Spots : Pretty much the entire thing!
Rating : 95%