Though the genesis of the band can be traced back to the school days of longtime friends Piet Sielck and Kai Hansen, Germany’s Iron Savior was truly born in the mid-1990s, when mainstay Sielck recruited the already-famous Hansen (Gamma Ray / ex-Helloween) and Thomen Stauch (Blind Guardian) with the goal of marrying Teutonic power metal to an overarching science fiction storyline. Over the course of the band’s fifteen-year lifespan, each album has furthered the tale of the eponymous sentient spacecraft, the Iron Savior. Hansen departed after three albums and an EP; Stauch departed after the self-titled debut. But Sielck remains, and The Landing is the band’s seventh full-length record, continuing the storyline and, despite the inherent silliness of the style itself, rocking in the process.
Opening with dramatic, swelling keys beneath epic, harmonized guitar lines, The Landing strikes hard and fast with the positively anthemic “The Savior,” which is microcosmic of the band’s entire approach. Soaring melodies delivered in Sielck’s rougher-than-the-power-metal-norm voice sit majestically atop grittier-than-the-power-metal-norm guitar riffs and touches of not-overpowering keyboards, all shiny and sharp and slick without being too much so. The likes of “Starlight” and “March Of Doom” follow suit, before the album takes one of its few lyrical detours, abandoning the plot for a moment of time-honored flag-waving for the wonders of metal. “Heavy Metal Never Dies” is every bit as goofy as its title would suggest, but yet it’s done with such grin-inducing glee that it’s hard not to get caught up in the moment just a little bit. (Similar later track “R.U. Ready” nods to everyone from Led Zeppelin to Rainbow to Judas Priest to AC/DC.) Though the appeal of any of its tunes will be limited to those with a strong lactose tolerance, The Landing nevertheless delivers eleven rock-solid trad-tinted power metal tunes with nary a dud, all finely crafted and well executed, and the added grit in both Sielck’s gravelly voice and the edgier guitar riffs keeps these Deutschmänner firmly one step on the good side of power metal cheese.
Even with seven albums under their collective belt, Iron Savior never crossed my radar until now, so I can’t compare it to previous efforts. Still, my unintentional avoidance of Sielck and company is a shame because I have a soft spot for both science fiction and good ‘n’ goofy melodic metal (as well as a long-standing love for Kai Hansen projects). Between the star-crossing subject matter and the expertly crafted guitar-driven bombast, The Landing is easily one of the better power metal records I’ve run across lately. It’s not for everyone, but for those who like their metal with much melody and that perfect dead-serious silliness, then here’s a winner.