Power Metal from USA
Andrew D’Cagna is a busy guy, that much is obvious. He’s put out an insane amount of music across a number of different bands lately that include acts such as Icarus Witch, Coldfell, and Obsequiae to name a few. Among a sea of projects, Ironflame is the one that stands out to me the most. Andrew graced us with the Lightning Strikes the Crown debut album just last year and somehow he’s managed to put out a second full length that rivals and, in some cases, exceeds the first effort. Tales of Splendor and Sorrow is another notch in D’Cagna’s belt that shows his knack for writing kick-ass music.
Lightning Strikes the Crown demonstrated a dynamic blend of power metal that lies somewhere between the classic US power metal sound and the more modern European approach that’s so popular these days. There aren’t too many bands out there that manage to play this style and do it well, the first that comes to mind is Twisted Tower Dire. Tales of Splendor and Sorrow continues in this direction and showcases improved songwriting.
Although other musicians help with the performance and recording process, Andrew D’Cagna is the sole songwriter for Ironflame. He handles everything aside from guitar solos which are done by James Dofka, known for his work in the USPM/Thrash outfit that bears his name – Dofka. Ironflame’s sound centers around speedy riffs, a heavy and constant dose of guitar melodies, and huge singalong choruses. It combines the riff-centric nature of US power metal with the guitar-melody focus of early European power metal bands like Scanner and Heaven’s Gate. Unlike other bands who go for a similar approach, Ironflame don’t fall into the trap of relying on keyboards in place of guitars. In fact, the absence of keyboards in this style helps keep the focus where it needs to be: on the guitars and vocals.
Andrew’s vocals are front and center on Tales of Splendor and Sorrow, slightly moreso than the debut album. This is a positive as D’Cagna’s voice is on point for the entire duration of the album. He has a very EUPM touch to his vocal delivery that when combined with his tone results in a pleasant experience. The drums and bass are nothing fancy – while I normally might be bothered by this I think it suits the music well in this scenario. The drums aren’t elaborate or a focal point of the band, but they do an excellent job complimenting the guitars and driving the music forward.
Tales of Splendor and Sorrow patches up the major issues present in Lightning Strikes the Crown. The debut started high but it started fizzling out towards the end – I find it difficult to continue through the B side rather than just repeat the first half of the album. Tales… on the other hand is more consistent throughout. The highs were higher on the debut, but the level of quality doesn’t really dip here. With a notably modern approach, the production is very similar to the previous effort. It’s crystal clear without being sterile and the vocals are pretty high up in the mix, which works quite well with Ironflame’s approach.
It’s hard to believe Ironflame’s debut was only last year. The two albums so far have been spectacular and thoroughly enjoyable. I find myself regularly listening to Lightning Strikes the Crown and I believe that will also be the case with Tales of Splendor and Sorrow.
Album Rating: 90/100
Favorite Track: Crimson Widow