Pick Your Rock and Metal

Monday, June 23, 2008

Twinning for metal the Fireland way

THE twin guitar assault of traditional metal has a long heritage – from Maiden to Metallica, with via the traditions of Lizzy, Scorpions, UFO, Priest, and Accept. Hard riffing, melodies and just plain straightforward heavy music.

For a brief period such classic metal fell from the headlines, but never from the hearts of fans, especially those that remembered, or yearned for, the days of cut-off denims atop motorbike jackets and beer-fuelled queues outside the Ulster Hall.

Coming from that heritage are Fireland, whose eponymous platter is now available in multiple formats – and well worth an investment from those who still love and respect heavy metal.

Of course, like any self respecting metal platters there are flaws, but thankfully few and far between.

Kicking of with the mid-paced brace of Servants of the Dark and Star Crossed Fireland’s intention is clear – laying down licks that are both mainstream metal (if there is such a thing!) and putting a Norn Iron stamp on it. Star Crossed in particular develops both a groove and melody supported by an arrangement that nods at the past and looks forward to how metal can develop.

In a world where speed is sometimes valued over composition (with the possible exception of Dragonforce, who Fireland have supported) solos can bleed into shredding for the sake of shredding, Fireland’s twin attack of Steve Moore and Jamie Johnston keep the licks in perspective, speeding up and slowing down as appropriate to the song, without interrupting the feel of the song and adding fills rather than leave a vacuum.

Gods of Love’s plaintive metalology serves as a warm-up for the pacier My Eternal, which explores the legacy of New Wave of British Heavy Metal, with structure reminiscent of early Diamond Head and White Spirit.

I Am Invisible’s chuggalong opening is the cue for a heads down romp, before In the Shadow of the Sun sees a return to the mid-paced ominous rhythms nailed by Chris Mawhinney on drums strive to deliver with much success throughout.

Fallen is the ‘Big Power Ballad’ of the album, and as scholars of the dark arts of metal know, no collection of riffage is complete without a power ballad! Fallen shows a depth of song writing Fireland can deliver. There are those that criticise the genre, in particular the propensity of even the hardest metal bans to show their sensitive sides (Nothing Else Matters anyone…) but in this track Fireland show their potential to reinterpret the cliché in an original way. And for the first time on the album Andy Baxter’s vocals are more prominent in the mix; matching both the solos and the riffage which completes all the best power ballads.

Betrayed to the Night starts gently before developing into what could have been an epic song – but it has possibly the only real flaw on the album. The inspired chorus and superb pacing are spoiled with a rap delved from nu-metal which should have been left on the cutting room floor as elsewhere on the track this is a simply superb song. This tendency reappears on album closer Widow By Morning

Fireland are on comfortable territory with Coming Home’s twin guitar attack, followed by In Her Strong Arms, which has the feel of Tesla after a night on Jack Daniels in its structure.

Little Pieces and the aforementioned Widow in the Making round off the album with intent, both keeping the structure of sound riffing, melodic choruses and balanced solos characterised on the rest of the album.

Overall, Fireland have strived to achieve something rare in Northern Ireland’s current metal scene: that is acknowledge what has gone before, reaching as far back as the seventies, plunder what works and discard the irrelevant to keep the sound fresh.

What is all the more remarkable is that they produced this themselves and created their own studio in the process. Perhaps therein lies the only real flaw. Sometimes Andy’s vocals are either restrained, or sometimes a little too low in the mix. As someone who can command a stage and belt it out with the best of them this ability is not always reflected in the recorded material.

However, this is a minor flaw in what otherwise is both crunching and thoughtful.
Fireland have created that rare beast – a metal album that stands aside heavy metal classics, but has a fresh Northern Ireland inspired twist. Bop along to the band’s websire, fireland.tv to find out more, download tracks and generally get into the metal mood!

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