Iron Mask – Master of Masters (AFM Records)Tuesday, 22nd December 2020
Many musicians feel prolific when it comes to their songwriting duties – so much so that they need more than one outlet to express all their ideas. Such has been the case for Belgian guitarist Dushan Petrossi – developing Magic Kingdom for his neoclassical power metal penchant, and Iron Mask being a little more commercial leaning while still very power metal driven. Master of Masters is the seventh studio record – signifying another singer shift while executing an hour-long odyssey into lands well revered for fans of Yngwie Malmsteen, At Vance, Dio-era Black Sabbath or Firewind.
Opener “Never Kiss the Ring” has all the twists, turns, vocal choir building and guitar tension plus majestic bombast from the keyboards/orchestration you would want from the first track – drummer Ramy Ali bursting with double kick energy as Dushan flashes his arpeggio tricks and 80’s-like Viking charm during the main riffs. Folk-inflections come up in electric form with the melodies and licks on the follow-up “Tree of the World”, where you really get to hear the professional spirit of Dushan’s catchy songwriting team with the multi-pronged register of Mike Siembrouck – smooth and operatic when called for, he has a lot of similarity to Fabio Lione that hopefully will make him a mainstay. Commercial keyboard/guitar harmonization of an uplifting nature makes “My One and Only” another standout – Dushan the master of controlled music during the verses to allow Mike’s voice to hold court, picking proper spots for technical flourishes, sweeps, and runs that axe mavens raise their swords in praise for. Beyond this you get the nine-minute epic that’s actually speedy and gallop for “Nothing Lasts Forever”, a tender ballad with “A Mother Loved Blue”, and an outstanding guest vocal spot with Avantasia/ex-At Vance singer Oliver Hartmann on the very At Vance-sounding “Revolution Rise”. The mixture of tempos and textures throughout ensures that most will feel at one with the music – it’s a real band effort even with the higher musical components- solid hooks, melodies, harmonies and choruses mandatory in the Iron Mask playbook.
Hard to believe that they could top the Diego Valdez-sung Diabolica, but this scribe believes Master of Masters has the chance to achieve that feat. Dramatic, powerful, and taking the listener away into another world – Iron Mask this deep into their career may surprise most who thought this style was a thing of decades past as far as relevancy.