The world of underground heavy metal was firmly shaken in the summer of 2018 when one of its most prominent figures, Mark “The Shark” Shelton, leader of Manilla Road and epic metal forefather, passed away suddenly. Tucker Thomasson (already a veteran of the Indiana metal scene with sludge/doom quartet Thorr-Axe and various other projects) was one of those people, basically deciding overnight to record a 3-song demo by himself and form a band in his memory (also covered M.R.’s “Crystal Logic” from their eponymous masterpiece) – and thus Throne of Iron was born.
Adventure One is the band’s first full length and as one can guess from the title, all lyrical themes comprising this record are drawn out of the mythical and epic world of Dungeons & Dragons. Battle commences instantly after the dungeon master’s spoken intro on song no. 1, “A Call to Adventure”, and a short but most epic intro gives way to mid-tempo, palm-muted riffs that dominate not only this, but most of the songs on this record. Interestingly enough, the rhythm guitar style is not so much based on established bands of the genre as one would expect (i.e. Manilla Road or Cirith Ungol), but leans heavily on classic metal pioneers like Judas Priest and even more so in the direction of German legends Accept.
Influences of epic-era Bathory can also be found in songs “Past Doors of Death” and “The Fourth Battle of the Ash Plains”, probably the best track on the album, with excellent tempo changes and a most stunning chorus, enhanced with multiple vocal harmonies. Further on this note, crafting memorable, anthemic choruses is this bands strongest trait as one can listen on “The Power of Will” and of course the single “Lichspire” – check out the awesome video for this tune online, displaying the band’s bald love for the D&D universe in its fullest glory. The album closes out with “Wish”, a dungeon synth style outro, a sort of melancholic and bittersweet farewell.
Thomasson’s vocals (mind you, he is no Robert Halford or Geoff Tate) throughout this 42-minute journey are fierce, to the point and blend wonderfully with the epic feel of the record. However, they feel a bit buried at times being relatively low in the mix while at the same time dressed in a healthy dose of reverb. Another thing that seems missing is the feeling of songs like “Dark Shrine of Rituals”. By far the darkest (as the title itself suggests) song of the album, with galloping, crushing riffs and an ominous chorus calling back to the days of early, Into Glory Ride era Manowar. This number graciously provides a different tone one would like to find more of on this record, those slower parts that would create a break the of the mid-paced tempo and provide a brooding feeling of epic splendor.
All in all, and despite those minor flaws, this is a great first effort by the Bloomington quartet, a homemade product (recorded and mixed by the band themselves) of honest and unpretentious homage to their idols of an era long gone but certainly not forgotten.
Album rating: 85/100
Favorite track: The Fourth Battle of the Ash Plains