Review: Vanlade – Iron Age
Power metal is one of the most popular forms of heavy metal in the world, but it’s prominence in the United States has fallen by the wayside leaving just a few bands to do the style justice. One such band is Vanlade.
Following a short intro, listeners are greeted with the rhythm of the double bass pedal and hum of the bass guitar. ‘Iron Age’ soon comes to life with a howling lead guitar, before singer, Brett Blackout Scott, screams “Iron age!” in a similar fashion to the great Rob Halford letting the listener know that Vanlade is a band with NWBHM style and flare. The prominence of the lead guitar, heavy riffing from the rhythm guitar, and driving rhythm of the drums and bass behind Scott’s high vocal style and manly lyrics gives ‘Iron Age’ a very Manowar-esque feel especially with a fret shredding guitar solos, powerful group chants, and lyrics such as “stay heavy or die!” All in all, ‘Iron Age’ is a powerful introduction to the world of Vanlade.
Fast and heavy, ‘Evil’s Bane’ carries on where ‘Iron Age’ left off with incredibly technical musicianship, which includes impressively fast picking and fretwork, heavy riffing, and a powerful rhythm section. Once more, Scott impresses with his control over his highs and mids, while delivering an intriguing story through his lyrics.
Opening with the scream of an eagle and catchy bass solo, ‘Blood Eagle’ is quite possibly the heaviest track on the entire album and for a good reason – Blood Eagle was a brutal Norsemen method of execution that even the bravest of men dreaded. The spirit of the Viking age and their infamous method of slaughtering their most hated of enemies is captured perfectly in lyrics such as “take their pride, take their sanity,” and “none survive this inhumanity.” As to portray the descent into madness that a victim of Blood Eagle would face, the guitar solos slowly rev up in intensity all while showing great skill on the part of the guitarists. The rhythm section is not without its praise either, for the drums keep the speed, while the bass is much more prominent than any song prior. Once more, Scott’s high vocals hit at the right times and his maniacal laugh at the conclusion puts this track to rest in the best way possible.
With ‘Hypernova’ sci-fi meets power metal. A synthesizer fades into guitar driven bliss before Scott’s high vocals take command for a few moments before yielding to the lead guitar once more. At this point, the Vanlade formula is firmly established – heavy rhythms, strong mid and screaming high vocals, and wailing lead guitars. That’s not to say the song doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Group chants are prominent, the guitar solos are wilder, and a dramatic slowdown midway through leads into a dramatic speech to a crowd by Scott regarding Earth’s unification against an alien race of insects seeking control of the Hypernova. This seemingly random story gives the song a character unique to the rest of the songs thus far.
‘Wings of Fire’ and ‘Bound by Fate (The Rising Dragon)’ return to the speed metal formula firmly established earlier in the album. Though excellent songs, they bring little new to the table outside of the lyrics. The same can be said of ‘Life by the Blade,’ though it kicks up the heaviness with heavier, faster rhythms, and prominent use of aggressive background vocals. That being said, ‘Life by the Blade’ is a late album gem that tops even ‘Blood Eagle’ with its intensity. This would have been the perfect ending to the album, however, there’s a bonus track.
Throwing out the established formula for a little fun with the glam metal style, ‘Screaming Metal Deathtrap’ begins with a police dispatch about a motorist evading the law. Likely inspired by Motley Crue, this track is driven by an addicting groove that matches perfectly with catchy lyrics sung almost entirely at a high register. With a classic feel and one of the best guitar solos of the entire album, this is one of the most enjoyable tracks on the album.
Combining speed and superior technical skill with an accomplished lead singer and lyricist, Vanlade isn’t likely to stay underground for long. Though they don’t veer too far from their formula for much of the album, there is much to love on ‘Iron Age’, especially the standout gems ‘Life by the Blade,’ ‘Blood Eagle’ and ‘Screaming Metal Deathtrap.’ Here’s to hoping their forthcoming follow up ‘Rage of the Gods’ can live up to this hidden gem. 8/10