SPIRITS OF FIRE – Spirits Of Fire

So here we go with just another one of those all-star projects from Frontiers, right? Well, usually when Frontiers releases an all-star project it’s within the AOR or/and Melodic Rock genre but here’s a bonafide Heavy Metal project. Who are the dudes that has rounded up for this thing then? Well, we have Tim “Ripper” Owens (Judas Priest, Iced Earth, Yngwie Malmsteen) on vocals, Chris Caffery (Savatage, Dr Butcher, Trans-Siberian Orchestra) on guitar, Steve Di Giorgio (Testament, Death, Sebastian Bach, Obituary) on bass and drummer Mark Zonder (Fates Warning, Warlord) with Roy Z (Bruce Dickinson, Rob Halford, Sebastian Bach) producing. Sounds interesting? Well, it does to me. What also differs this project is that it’s made solely by the members involved and of course Roy Z which means no involvement from the usual suspects that holds both song writing and producing duties at Frontiers normally. That aside, I think it’s time I get a good dose of Metal again – it was a long time since I found a new Metal act that could kick my ass right into next week!

The leading single “Light Speed Marching” is the first song out and it kinda sounds like I had expected. Fast, aggressive and full of rage, the song comes across as the bastard child of Judas Priest’s “Painkiller” and “Freewheel Burning”. This is a powerful ballbuster that does its best to rip your head off – a full Metal attack. Very good. The Priest influences stays on for “Temple Of The Soul” mixed with a more aggressive Dio twist. Punchy and raging in a mid-pace, the song does its best to go for a knock-out but it doesn’t completely convince me. It’s ok but it doesn’t leave a lasting impression. “All Comes Together” is upbeat and kicking with a ballsy delivery that also brings on some more prog-metal elements. While striking and hard it also treats us with a main-melody that’s memorable and a refrain that catches on right away – very direct. This I like!

The title-track starts out in a mid-pace with heavy as hell verses that at times sends my thoughts back to Dr Butcher, Cafferty’s side-project with Savatage singer Jon Oliva. The tune fastens up for the pre-chorus with a ton of aggression while the refrain brings the tempo down a notch again – and the refrain is heavy, pounding and right in your face. Very good indeed. Latest single “It’s Everywhere” starts out in a stripped and calm manner with clean guitars but it turns heavy and bouncy in no-time. On a foundation of Metal the tune’s tempo is slower but also very melodic with a big classic Hard Rock twist. It also holds an atmospheric and dark middle-break and that brings some variation to the song, something the tune benefits from. The refrain is distinct, direct and etches itself to the brain right off the bat which tattles of a more mainstream way of thinking. Not that it matters – it’s not like it’s a pop song or something. Great tune.

“A Game” is slow and quite laid-back but not soft at all. It’s more like a bluesier Metal ballad with an earthy and organic take. Even though it heavies up and gets more rowdy towards the end, the balladry is a much needed breather which works wonders for the dynamics on an album like this. Very good. “Stand And Fight” is a riff-happy, raging and in-your-face Metal belter that weighs a ton – kind of like their own take on Judas Priest’s “Jawbreaker”. Ferociously attacking with fierce aggression, the song is just that – a jawbreaker. Good stuff. The ballsy, robust and direct “Meet Your End” is more of a classic Metal tune and all would be well there if it wasn’t so standard. This song really doesn’t do anything for me and it goes nowhere. I wouldn’t call it bad per-se but I had forgotten how it sounded the second it ended. Next.

But “Never To Return” takes the record back on track again with a pounding, rhythmic and stone-hard outlook in a dark mode. In this track, Ripper takes a trip back to both his Priest and Yngwie Malmsteen days. That said, the tune leans more towards Hard Rock than Metal but without giving in on the heaviness. Big on catchy melodies, the song is very memorable and one this album’s true winners – great! The seven minute, epic “The Path” begins on a softer note – stripped down and calm. But it soon heavies up but still hold a slower pace but with striking melodies and an intense groove. I’m getting a Savatage vibe mixed with some Priest-like melodies. Killer! Closing track “Alone In The Darkness” is a peaceful (well…) metal ballad, big and bombastic with a melancholic strike. Big melodies and a soothing arrangement makes the tune contagious. The song gets heavier and fastens up some but still holds the ballad arrangements. A solid track and a great closer.

This album was a grower for me. I was far from impressed after my first spin but after a few more, I had surrendered. That said, it still is a bit uneven at times – many damn good songs but also a few that just falls by the way-side. Style-wise, this is classic Heavy metal without any whimsical pranks – just bang, boom, fist on face. The Judas Priest influences here are enormous – almost every track has something that could derive from the Priest – but it’s not done like carbon copy by any means. What this album is made of is a heartwarming love for Metal and these guys are old enough in this game to know the importance of good melodies that etches themselves to the brain and we get a bulk of them here. Without getting the highest score, this is a promising debut that bodes well for the future – because I hope they have one. I do get the feeling of a band more than just another project here.

6/10

Tracklist:

1. Light Speed Marching
2. Temple Of The Soul
3. All Comes Together
4. Spirits Of Fire
5. It’s Everywhere
6. A Game
7. Stand And Fight
8. Meet Your End
9. Never To Return
10. The Path
11. Alone In The Darkness

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