Overlords of Chaos

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After a rather lengthy four-year absence, Portugal's Ironsword reasserted their commitment to forging epic, fantasy-fueled heavy metal with their third full-length album, 2008's Overlords of Chaos -- their first for Shadow Kingdom Records. However, neither this label switch nor the by now customary personnel changes (here represented by new drummer Maalm) had any ill effect on the songs composed by Ironsword vocalist, guitarist, and de facto main man Tann, as these still drew inspiration primarily from the twin towers of author Robert E. Howard (for the lyrics) and cult metal legends Manilla Road (for the music and Tann's various vocal styles). Indeed, the aesthetic similarities between both bands are impossible to ignore in the face of carbon-copy efforts like "Death of the Gods" and "The Pyre of Kings" -- no matter how confidently Ironsword execute them. On the other hand, the less imaginative "Blood and Honor" and poorly rendered "Hyperborean Hordes" simply fail in no uncertain terms, appearing like fractured mirror images of the real deal. And when Ironsword finally do deviate from form for efforts like "Road Warriors," "Fear of the Night," and "Crown of Iron," it's to pilfer the Iron Maiden coffer for unquestionably classic but terribly overused NWOBHM coinage. That being said, even the least impressive cuts here generally boast ear-catching guitar solos from Tann, and the biggest weapons in Ironsword's arsenal -- including the title track's spectacular, galloping glory and the pulverizing power of "Cimmera" -- are far too entertaining to resist. After all, this particular style of heavy metal is performed rarely enough for those partial to it to not be so picky about what sort of repetition occurs, so long as it's carried off well, and this Ironsword certainly do.

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