Ironsword unleash true heavy metal fire, serve the old gods on roaring ‘None But the Brave’

IronswordIt’s not all that often that we get to peg something as true heavy metal these days. Discussions and sites like this get bogged down with a million descriptors and sub-genres that the word “metal” hardly is enough to suffice. But that doesn’t mean that’s the case all the time.

Take Portuguese warriors Ironsword, who practically embody what true heavy metal is all about. Following along the same path as like-minded bands such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Cirith Ungol, Manilla Road, and Dawnbringer, this band has burned the torches of heavy metal for the past two decades, making some great, if a little under-the-radar collection of albums. Their latest, the excellent “Nothing But the Brave,” is a true shot in the arm, a collection of 12 tracks that should make you imagine sword battles, wars being fought on horses amid clouds of dust, and the debauchery that follows. If you’re a fan of classic metal, this record should get your blood flowing. Its sound is tried-and-true, and these tracks are so damn catchy and fun, they’re impossible to remove from your head. Not that you’ll want them out of there anyway.

Ironsword coverOriginally, Ironsword was a one-man project for longtime leader Joao “Tann” Fonesca, but as the years have gone by, this has formed into a full group of foot soldiers. For this record, Ironsword’s first since 2008’s great “Overlord of Chaos,” are bassist Aires Pereira (Jorge Martins since has taken his place), and drummer Joao Monteiro, forming a newly fortified group that smashes all cylinders. They serve the old metal gods well, with tremendously fiery melodies, choruses you won’t soon forget, and an honesty and hunger that is contagious and will make you want to follow them right into the mouth of war.

The first cut “Forging the Sword” is so damn great, with the riffs carrying this thing hard, the vocals coming in traditionally gruff, and the chorus blowing a hole in your brain. I have the damn thing in my head as I type this! “Kings of the Night” picks right up and keep pushing the pace, with the music galloping, another strong chorus blowing fire, and Fonesca repeatedly urging, “Fight!” as the song winds toward its end. “Calm Before the Storm” rages forward, with Fonesca howling, “With bated breath, welcome death!” before a strong, easy-to-remember refrain. That’s another thing Ironsword do well. They keep this simple but hearty. The title track feels very Priest, with a galvanizing message hammered home with, “We may fight forever, yet we shall stand together.” It, along with its calculated pace, is enough to make you want to enlist along with their metal battalion. “Ring of Fire” is a stomper, following in the same vein as what preceded it, but certainly not treading water, while “Betrayer” has awesome riffs, a sinister pace, and a quick, one-word chorus that is howled with conviction. Killer track.

“The Usurper” is mashing and violent, with a more menacing tone to the music, a fantastic solo that rips right out of the center of this, and Fonesca howling, “All hail the usurper!” “Army of Darkness” is campy as hell, but I mean that in the best possible way, as the verses are punchy, the tempo is drubbing, and, once again, the guitar work rules hard. “Vengeance Will Be Mine” has … you guessed it … a great chorus, with that payback promised “by the hammer, by the sword,” and it’s one hell of an effective rallying cry. “Cursed and Damned” has a very Maiden-style roll to it, with rich dual guitar lines, a little bit more atmosphere to it, and the guitar playing showing a great deal of soul. “Eye for an Eye,” like so many of the cuts that precede it, is glorious and pounding, with Fonesca promising, “Time has come for glory or death,” with the chorus punching and the soloing burning brightly. Closer “The Shadow Kingdom” perhaps is a nod to their label and begins spacious and clean, feeling like it’s going into ballad territory before it bursts open. But it returns to that dark terrain when the solo strikes, feeling solemn and shadowy, with the final moments mesmerizing as a beast snarls in the background.

Ironsword’s music bows to no trends, cares about no tastes other than their own, and is a bonafide example of the true spirit of heavy metal being alive and burning. “Nothing But the Brave” is another damn good entry from this long-running band, and hopefully it gets more attention from metal fans all over. This band never steers you wrong, and the edges of their blades are as sharp as ever.

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