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BLOOD AND IRON – Blood And Iron

  • Review by: Ishaan Kumar

India has had a host of metal bands from various genres ever since Millennium decided to go decadent in an age of flower-power music. A plethora of artistes spanning genres like black metal, death metal, thrash metal, melodic death metal and metalcore now teem all over the country. But in this age of moshpits and blast beats, one very vital genre of metal has been largely sidelined, the one that is aptly called ‘power metal’. This genre has as many fans as it has naysayers who dismiss it as ‘cheesy’ and ‘over-the-top’ for its fantastical, epic and storytelling-oriented music style. But like true metalheads of other genres, there are still people that live to uphold the flag of this genre; and this particular sextet from Chennai called Blood & Iron are doing an epic job of just that.

To start with, Blood & Iron are far away from the stereotypical power metal band with whom one can associated mostly tremolo-picked 4 note-structures driven by an 8/4 time signature and, of course, the high pitched, semi-operatic vocal style. This band takes a more progressive approach to power metal. They like to intersperse the fast and slow sections of a song, sometimes dabbling in a time signature oddity here and there and jumping from a tremolo barrage to precisely played powerchord strikes. All of that works brilliantly towards unfolding the story they wish to tell through this self-titled debut; one set in World War II and about a Soviet soldier being taken as a Prisoner of War by the Nazis. The songs represent a culmination of the soldier’s memories since being given that fateful order from his general that led to his capture; and a constant battle between his thoughts and emotions, the latter being dominated by fear, confusion and hopelessness.

The album, therefore, is a concept album; and like many concept albums, has its share of dialogue tracks. The album opener is one such track called ‘The Order’ and depicts a scene where the protagonist of the story is trying to hopelessly reason with his general to sound a retreat (and has nothing to do with restaurants). Now though its a dialogue track,it has been depicted very poetically in the sense that the general’s voice is a deep growl, symbolic of a demon who has no emotion whatsoever (the soldier’s voice is given by vocalist Mark A Thomas himself). This track then continues into the 1st ‘real song’ on the album, ‘Blood Oath’. This track has a heavy palm-muted riff structure with an atmospheric keyboard harmony. The vocals comprise more of a gravely baritone rather than high-pitched soaring one and the 1st 2 lines of every verse even end with a black metal screech harmonic! But seeing as how the band likes to be progressive, you do have constant scale shifts in the song. Following this song is another dialogue track ‘Dreams of Madness’ which involves the soldier talking in an near-neurasthenic manner. This then trails into ‘P.O.W’ (yes,prisoners of war). This song has a more British Hard Rock-approach with start-stop chord sequences but it still has a highly epic tune. Another dialogue track (‘Fate’s Hope’) follows and this leads into one cracker of a song, ‘Second Eternity’. This song has it all: A powerchord-heavy verse sequence laced with pinches, a sped-up keyboard solo section, and a beautifully done guitar solo section involving trade-offs b/w the 2 guitar players Ashish Shetty and Vikram Bains.

The rest of the album just continues to have this epic feel to it, including the song that has been enthralling visitors of the Myspace page of this band, ‘Stalingrad’. The album ends with the perfect ‘finisher’, ‘My Last Prayer’ because of this aura of finality that it has.Now, every album is not perfect, and though I personally found no flaws with this band musically, the production on this album leaves a lot to be desired. Guitar volumes suddenly reducing, the bass being being almost inaudible and very low volumes on a few songs are what act as interruptions to a brilliant story unfolding. I sincerely hope the band is considering a remaster of this album because it definitely deserves better production.

The band will release a follow-up to this album called ‘Dynamite World’ this year (tentatively June) and hopefully will continue with this epic journey of theirs (and will hopefully be better produced). If a lack of polished production is not a hindrance to you, this album is a MUST HEAR. If it is, well live with it and buy this album anyway.