Like most of us, Andrew D’Cagna grew up in a quiet town bereft of Crusades, wars fought upon horseback and plagues. Thus, we were all forced to cobble together medieval weaponry made from sticks, battle garb torn from the deepest depths of our mothers closets and horses imagined from our tiny bicycles (er, battle chariots) adorned with streamers and training wheels. It was a childhood filled with imagination that often lacked in the friendship department, but it was still ultimately rewarding beyond comprehension. The corners of tattered capes flapped in the breeze as small cadres of tiny youth plunged into the woods to attack tree and imagined foe alike.
As these young warriors grew up, some developed talents and turned to channeling their imagination into those talents. Here’s where making friends became crucial. Bands were necessary to bring visions of battles of yore into the modern light. A friend’s crushing Marshall 4×12 Stack banging out power chords while another friend sang in an oversized leather jacket borrowed from an elder sibling. Sometimes a parent had to sit in on the kit and a neighbor volunteered to play bass—the adults working out their own issues of lost youth, while the youths dreamed of performing to an arena in Sao Paulo.
For most of us, though, the dream eventually died, golf shirts replaced homemade armor and we drove our Dodge Statuses (Strati?) to the local Enterprise Rent-A-Car where we had obtained a post as branch manager. Those dreams faded into the background of a life filled with tax obligations, pointless political elections and the daily struggle to make healthy eating choices (a battle we all likely lost more than we won). Crying ourselves to sleep as we prayed for that promotion that would finally make our families respect us, the cries of battle became nothing but background noise underpinning our anxieties which eventually became full-fledged panic.
It’s no secret ‘round these parts that the United States has made leaps and strides in the global power metal scene since around the release of Ironflame’s first LP, Lightning Strikes the Crown. Visigoth, Pharaoh, Ancient Empire and Ironflame have all played no small part in that growth. With Blood Red Victory, Ironflame again asserts a traditional, battle-ready stance.
Utilizing a classic production, catchy and blistering solos (the only aspect of the album not provided entirely by D’Cagna), the album provides a slightly more aggressive take on the Ironflame sound heavily influenced by American legends Jag Panzer. Guitars riff in unison, and drums surge ahead of the soft vibrato of D’Cagna to create a sound bordering on battle euphoria. At once infectious and inspiring, like downing 10 drams of vole’s blood before a secret rendezvous in a Los Angeles cocktail bar (and aren’t those the true domestic battles of Americans today?)
The slowest song on the album is the fourth track entitled “Blood Red Cross.” While it’s more plodding than outright slow, it provides a welcome and well-placed break from the adrenaline-fueled agility found elsewhere. Tracks like “On Ashen Wings,” “Honor Bound” and “Seekers of the Blade” lie in contrast, providing harmonized guitars and riffs built of steel as the tracks slash through the torsos of enemies silly enough to stand in the way. For these riffs are not only agile, they are catchy. These vocals are not only deftly delivered, they are virulent. A plague upon all listeners providing nothing but positive symptoms and elated side effects. Blood Red Victory is a feel-good experience to be enjoyed in all situations from the happiest (birth of your first child) and the saddest (death of your first child).
The album closes with “Night Queen,” which can only be assumed linked to “Shadow Queen,” the closing track on their aforementioned debut LP. The track is perhaps the most radio friendly of the bunch, with the chorus utilizing blues-inspired vocalizations to drag the listener into a place where one can come to believe that power metal might actually be pop music. And maybe that’s the true battle being fought. There is simply no reason that these riffs—dissonant in their nature and triumphant in their resolve—could not populate the airwaves alongside the likes of Miley Crasspluster, Sewer Grate and Taylor Swizzlegrifter.
So, fire up your Ironflame albums and drive on down to the Piggly Wiggly and blast that m’f’er out there for all to hear. Plant yourself on the roof your automobile—gauntlet aflame—and declare that this is our future and we will stand behind no imposters.
Heavy metal for president, 2020.