Iron Mask – Black As Death (AFM Records)

Sunday, 24th March 2013
Rating: 6.5/10

Anytime a bio boasts about the album in question having “over an hour of the band’s renowned talent,” it’s a big ‘ole red flag. An hour and change worth of power metal is only acceptable if your name is Blind Guardian, not Iron Mask or any of their restless PM buddies. And yeah, no one is going to complain having to listen to Mark Boals (ex-Yngwie, Royal Hunt and 80 other bands) for over 60 minutes, but even the well-traveled singer tends to lose his muster after such a length of time. Brevity, people.

Black As Death is the fourth album from Iron Mask, who are virtual unknowns on these shores, save for Boals. The bulk of the band consists of dudes from Danish power metallers Magic Kingdom (who have probably been sued by Disney) along with former Yngwie and Ark keyboardist Mats Olaussen, who provides enough Stratovarius-esque moments to comprise of another full-length. In essence: Iron Mask aren’t exactly re-inventing the wheel here.

The album’s cumbersome 13 songs range from usual power metal downhill runners like “Feel the Fire,” “Blizzard of Doom,” and the rather extreme-sounding (including a Boals death metal grunt!) “Nosferatu.” Mid-tempo jaunts like the seven minute-plus title track, “Genghis Khan” (in which the song title is repeated ad infinitum) and goofy “Rebel Kid” are virtual composite sketches, rife with old melodic and power metal ideas, with Boals being the only real saving grace.

There are a lot of things wrong with Black As Death, although none of them involve Boals or Iron Mask’s vast technical capabilities. Rather, this is another one of those pointless power metal albums that instead of trying to establish some semblance of identity, choose to re-trace everything the likes of Helloween, Stratovarius, and Symphony X have already done. Power metalbands can be so naïve, can’t they?

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