So, there I was: standing minding my own business, propping up the bar in my local when I get a tap on my leather-jacket clad shoulder. “Shaun said to make sure you get this,” a voice says as a package is thrust into the hand which is not holding a pint of rather fine Belfast Black porter. Now, in this particular dirty ol’ town, and in the good old, bad old days, such an approach would have sent shudders down the spine of the recipient of both such a comment and parcel. On this occasion, said delivery had the same effect: as the object in question was the debut CD by new Belfast metal crew Ironheart and the deliverer thereof was one Tom Heaney, bass player with said band – and the ‘Shaun’ who wanted make sure I got this vital piece of digital data: well, the band’s towering lead guitarist and the mastermind behind the project, Shaun Nelson.
Heaney and Nelson have history on the Northern Irish metal scene: both were previously members of Conjuring Fate, while the Glasgow-born guitarist first came to the fore as part of Attica Rage. This project sees them team up with a number of other stalwarts from this part of Moshdom – second guitarist Stevie McLaughlin, once of Sandstone, former Sweet Savage sticksman Jules Watson (who subsequently has been forced to leave the band on health grounds, to be replaced by the fantastic Andrew Munn) and veteran vocalist Stevie K, best known for his work with AORsters Escape.
Having heard snippets of demos from the album, I knew roughly what to expect – but not even that prepared me for what eventually emanated from my trusty old death deck an hour or so later… for ‘Revolution Calls’ is one of those albums that genuinely rips your head off, bounces it around the room like Shaquille O’Neal on speed and places it back on your shoulders, only for it to fall off almost immediately in the fury of a headbanging frenzy.
‘Revolution…’ is very much in the power metal mien, although lying at the darker, heavier end of the spectrum, summoning forth the spirit of the likes of Dio, Iced Earth and other American exponents of the genre rather than their cleaner European counterparts (although there are plenty of echoes of classic Accept, especially in the grunt to the bottom end of the twin guitar trades). The title track impacts with more ferocity than a thousand IS terrorists charging into an ancient temple, its guitars ducking, diving and interweaving like Tomcats in the midst of supersonic dogfight, as Watson’s drums beat both your body and brain into bloodied submission, while K spits his venom-filled vocal smack into the middle of your face.
In fact, “young” Stevie’s vocal performance is undoubtedly the most surprising aspect of this album. I’ve always known he has a superlative voice, but I’ve only ever heard him in the context of acoustic or melodic rock scenarios. On ‘Revolution…’ he displays a sheer power that is both glorious and impassioned, as he exercises his full range – from the soaring histrionics of ‘Heroes Of The Lost World‘ (indeed, if you didn’t know any better you would sacrifice your right arm asserting that this was actually a long-lost RJD gem) through the dark, gutsy growl of the opening to ‘Dreamcatcher‘ to the fist-pumping Priest-esque grunt of ‘Fight The Oppressor‘ to the thumping almost demonic growl of ‘Gods Of War‘ – with an easy charm that never once suggests he is straining his voice to reach both the depths and highs asked of it, but is so entirely natural in its delivery throughout.
This album has everything: great songs, all of which are perfectly structured and superbly delivered, and stunning performances, which display passion and commitment as well as consummate musical ability, and a solid production. And the artwork is pretty impressive to boot. All in all, ‘Revolution Calls’ is an essential purchase for any fan of “true” metal, and an album which should make an awful lot of other acts in the power metal mien stand up and pay attention.
With Stevie McLaughlin also subsequently having left the ranks, Ironheart currently are searching for a new guitarist; once they find someone capable of rising to the challenge, they plan to schedule live dates as soon as possible thereafter – if they can find venues similarly able to withstand the beatdown which will be delivered upon them.
Revolution Calls / Heroes Of The Lost World / Industrial Slaves / Dream Catcher / Fight The Oppressor / Law Makers Curse / Gods Of War / Humanity’s Last Crime / I Stand Alone / Carpe Diem
Recommended listening: Heroes Of The Lost World