Ironsword are back after a five year hiatus with their latest album, Servants of Steel. If you’ve ever heard Ironsword before, then you know exactly what to expect from them. They play a brand of epic heavy metal that operates at neck-breaking speeds and their quality and consistency earned them a well deserved spot on our epic heavy metal essentials.
just from the title of the album’s intro track, “Hyborian Scrolls”, you immediately know that this Portugese trio has done it yet again. Ominous winds play over steady drums of war before they give way to an epic, mid-paced riff setting the stage for what’s about to come. From here on, it’s like a Conan tale with one flash of steel and pounding riff after another. Like previous Ironsword records, there’s a number of influences at play here like Omen, Running Wild, and Cirith Ungol, but this time around the aggressive, mid-era Manilla Road influence is far and away the most apparent. There’s no active band out there that channels the raw and epic energy of Mystification in the same way that Ironsword does.
Servants of Steel is a pretty strong album musically and it’s a clear step up from its predecessor, but it suffers from a few critical issues that have plagued Ironsword in the past. The riffs are excellent and the songs are fast-paced and punchy, but that’s exactly the problem. Ironsword are set in their sound, but I would have loved to see them push the limits of their creativity in the same way that Manilla Road, the band from which they take most of their influence, constantly did. There are 12 total tracks on Servants of Steel and the vast majority of them are in the 4 or 5 minute range. Ironsword’s songwriting is simply too straight forward for that many short tracks to work well. Cutting 3 or so tracks would bring the album length from 50 minutes down to about 35 minutes which is perfect for this style. As it currently is, Servants of Steel suffers from too much predictability.
You know exactly what you’re signing up for with every Ironsword album. If you’re already familiar with them and you’re not already a fan, then Servants of Steel will do absolutely nothing to sway you and that’s perfectly okay. Ironsword are pounding, fast-paced, epic heavy metal and proudly carry on the Manilla Road tradition. I ever need that itch scratched I’ll know exactly where to go and there’s a sense of comfort in that.
Favorite track: Rogues in the House
Album rating: 85/100