Iron Mask – Fifth Son of Winterdoom (AFM Records)

Wednesday, 4th December 2013
Rating: 8/10

The life of a neo-classical power metal guitarist can be a tenuous one. Too much excessive technical display and you could only gain appeal with the musically inclined, Berklee college masses – too little variety and melodic elements and the casual fan will move on quickly. Belgian guitar master Dushan Petrossi may have gotten his foot in the record label door with the more symphonic power metal band Magic Kingdom in 1999, but Iron Mask has slowly carved out its own niche appeal, with Fifth Son of Winterdoom their fifth studio platter since 2002. Fortunate for the listener, these 12 tracks run the gamut in terms of songwriting versatility, arrangements, and professional execution.

Mark Boals fronting the band certainly puts Iron Mask in high regard right out of the gate. He can keep up with the speedy, Petrossi arpeggio runs and Rami Ali-led double bass tenacity on “Like a Lion in a Cage” (rivaling the best Malmsteen and Stratovarius work) just as easily as handling a normal power anthem such as “Rock Religion” or the exotic throwback epic with Middle Ages lyrical focus “Reconquista 1492.”

In terms of a style, Iron Mask present a lot of Malmsteen and Firewind type elements in terms of skill set and neo-classical runs- but this isn’t going to be a silly 60 minute plus shred fest. “Back into Mystery” and “One Commandment” contain strong commercial-like hooks that conventional fans of Dio or self-titled album era Whitesnake should recognize. And Petrossi also pays homage to one of his guitar heroes in Gary Moore for the 10 minute title cut- featuring baby oriented sound effects, Irish keyboard / bagpipe overtures, and enough slow harmony keyboard/ guitar elements to make you break out “Emerald” or “Over the Hills and Far Away” again.

Easily on par with the best work of At Vance and Firewind, Fifth Son of Winterdoom fires on all the right melodic power metal cylinders, and is probably Iron Mask’s finest hour.

Iron Mask official site