Age of Fire – Shades of Shadow (Sliptrick Records)Tuesday, 18th February 2020
Resurrecting Age of Fire from the original incarnation of the late 80’s/early 90’s act in 2018, guitarist/bassist/vocalist Greg Brown has released a full-length Obsidian Dreams in 2019 and quickly issuing the follow-up Shades of Shadow. Choosing to surround himself with another bassist/drummer in Michael Heck plus a second vocalist with Laura Viglione, the ten tracks encompass a wider array of classical, thrash, and traditional metal influences – interspersing conventional songwriting with instrumentals that align well with his older influences.
Laura’s range and tone possess the right bite and sustained note abilities to raise eyebrows to the good – her voice pure and rich in an Ann Wilson/Grace Slick-like charm for early favorite “Judgement Day”. Greg’s shredding neoclassical style leads blend seamlessly against Michael’s steady drum work – it’s evident that he loves the Shrapnel-style players along with a healthy dose of Yngwie, but the foundation of his songs contain simpler, steady chord progressions that are metal to the bone. Spacious keyboards propel “Fairystones” into a dynamic symphonic meets AOR/melodic metal instrumental effort, while “King of Aquilonia” takes inspiration from the Conan stories of Robert E. Howard, maintaining an epic/mountain-top atmosphere as Laura slowly builds momentum vocally and the music supports that circular, cultural nature. Greg throws down some serious licks and arpeggio-oriented axe activities during instrumentals like “High Speed Chase” and “Dual Phases of the Moon” – the latter featuring Steve Sanderson on drums. Choosing to end the record on a calmer note through the 6:10 “Mist at Dawn” instrumental, his emotive choices of bluesy guitar phrasing against a clean, ethereal underpinning prove Age of Fire can be reflective and tasteful in a memorable context.
What could improve things down the line is a bit better production value – there are times where the rhythm section tones (snare and kick especially) suffer from a bit of a digitized or slap-oriented effect that comes off as more demo sounding that doesn’t sit well next to other product on the marketplace. The quality of the songwriting and performances outweigh this slight misnomer – in the end, Shades of Shadow is ideal for those looking for metal with loads of classical and traditional traits at heart.