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Aska - Fire Eater

Fire Eater
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein / Michael "MettleAngel" Francisco at 05 September 2013, 1:50 PM


While the traditional US Metal scene began its decay process in the early 90s, it didn’t bother several old school driven bands back then to find it appropriate to commence their journey to newfound heights just when all hell broke loose, and not for the good. George Call’s ASKA (Once fronted OMEN and still is on the BANSHEE lineup), from Dallas, Texas, was one of the few that actually survived the turmoil that has been engulfing the US Metal scene as it was torn asunder by the invasion of the Grunge heritage. That incursion that propagated into the welcoming party of modern Metal that infested itself so rapidly was probably one of the chief reasons why ASKA never came up to be a big title in the US and worldwide. But nothing could seem to stop Call and his gang from continuing their Heavy Metal legacy with various orchestrations that cling to the retro Heavy Metal with smidgeons of 80s AOR / Hard Rock and the terribly missed US Power Metal attributes. Five years after the band’s previous studio effort, “Fire Eater”, via Pure Steel Records, is served fresh from the oven after two latest reissues of the band’s earlier offerings while also introducing new members to the ASKA lineup. Let me tell you this, it was worth eating fire for this one.

Just a few lines ago I mentioned that ASKA are survivors, and for some reason I believe that I have to prove why they deserve this title. You don’t really need to listen to their previous releases, plainly to this here “Fire Eater”, to comprehend that nothing of their songwriting, compositions and even sound engineering treads with modern trending. You might call it old school purity if you may. Similarly to their aforementioned albums, whether from the 90s or the first decade of 00s, “Fire Eater” might be a lost recording from the mid to late 80s; an old remnant vanished in the sands of time. As witness quite a lot throughout the years, Metal bands from the 80s have been having the knack to incorporate modern elements in order to more or less fit in to the contemporary scene, yet without selling their soul. ASKA never went there. “Fire Eater” packs within its treasure chest the true old school feel, shifting from toughened up melodic Metal to catchy, yet a little obscure, softer Rock assortments at will, letting the listener have an 80s experience in a fuller scale.

“Valhalla”, “Son Of A God” and “Eye Of The Serpent” measures up a definitive mixture of IRON MAIDEN, METAL CHURCH, ARMORED SAINT, early 80s SAVATAGE and 80s RIOT, delivering 80s epic themed songs of great quality that is a mere reassertion of the past, dishing catchy riffing with plenty of power points, soaring high end vocals of a incredible standards correspondingly to the giants of the era. On the other hand, ASKA put up a show of memorable Hard N’ Heavy like “Dead Again”, afflicting an emotive tale with an amazing singing and that mesmerizing traditional Metal implementations. Furthermore, clinging hard to sensitive fields, ASKA offer “Harlot Of Eden” and “Year Of Jubilee” (as if it was a part of a Rock opera), contemplating thoughts with variations of old QUEEN, DEF LEPPARD, ASIA and a little of YES. George Call really had me going there with these masterful vocal skills, such a versatile frontman that can also be comforting and relaxing. Lastly, ASKA reached out with their own version, quite theatrical I might add, for the JUDAS PRIEST classic of “The Ripper”, quite alarming but effective.

I believe that I proved to you why ASKA is one of the few 80s experiences that are still around to bash your skull but also to keep your heart warm with comfort. “Fire Eater” is a well recommended release, a preserving means to keep the old fire burning.


The triumphant warriors have returned! I have so longed for a new album by ASKA. I have sifted through the ashes of their early efforts up to their most recent masterpiece “Absolute Power”, itself an amazing follow-up to “Avenger”. I am dumbfounded how it has already been six years since these vice stalkers have delivered any new material. Finally they have decisively chosen to take action, face the test of leprosy, and breathe fresh fire for us to consume.

Thankfully, I was able to see them live two years in a row at Warriors Of Metal Festival. At this time, I became acquainted with the band, and got to know George Call personally, even doing two interviews with him. I have always admired his vocal capabilities and his ability to adapt to whatever band for whom he sings whether it is OMEN, BANSHEE, CLOVEN HOOF, or his blood of the wolf passion for ASKA.

I was grateful when Pure Steel re-issued “Nine Tongues” earlier this summer; especially, since “Fire Eater” consists on the same line-up from 1997. So the question is does this diligent effort where everyone tries to be creative, truly live up to all the anticipation? I would argue that it succeeds for the most part exploring the path of artistic freedom, but on initial listens I was not as overwhelmed as I had intended. Eventually, against all odds, the mettle invasion succeeded and I was captivated by their eternal might.

The album opens with a flash and laser blast as the imperial roaming riffs of “Everyone Dies” pulsates. Here George calls to mind Halford's screaming for vengeance motif as evidenced on songs like “Exciter”, but overall, he actually reminds me more of Sean Peck from CAGE and now DEATH DEALER. I am also not too impressed with their choice of covering the obligatory cut “The Ripper”. Overall, it holds merit, but after all, what can you do with such a song simple as such? They did a magnificent job on MAIDEN's “Flight Of Icarus”, and I think they could have done better justice to “The Sinner” “Screaming For Vengeance”, “Exciter” or “Tyrant” by Priest.

Call is a likable guy but I suppose he has serious relationship issues. Obviously the bitch referred to in the accessible “Dead Again” with its Rockin' vibe, recalls the sorrowed experience of having a perpetually broken heart. This is evidenced by the embittered “Harlot Of Eden” a vicious lethal injection into the psyche and possibly the impassioned sequel to “Vowbreaker”.

Maybe he finally found his soul mate in “Angela” as this slow brooding and evocative power ballad replete with female voice-over confirmations, acoustic interludes, and accompanying drum cadence suggests some level of salvation, and the promise of love.

One of the real stand-out tracks is “Red Cell” which even includes some keyboard arrangements, some thought-provoking lyrics, and borderline progressive elements, all perfected with sagacious soloing. George sings like Joe Comeau of DUSKMACHINE back when he was with LIEGE LORD. The epic anthem “Valhalla” clearly picks up where “Longships” and “Valkyries” left off, continuing the victorious saga of the Vikings.

The most poignant and polished track would have to be “Son Of A God” which is 100% ASKA. Just as “Message From God” spoke of megalomania, here again, George addresses the issues of mental instability. I am well-aware of the Biblical celebration of forgiveness associated with the “Year Of Jubilee”, but the languid song itself is a major mistake: too poppy, lame, and not at all worthy of your investment. This is something I would expect from STRYPER, SAINT, SHOUT, or BARREN CROSS, but not these vigilantes. Thankfully, the closing sci-fi track “Eyes Of The Serpent” is a real burner in the vein of SACRED OATH, STEEL ASSASSIN, recent ATTACKER, etc. Perhaps this was even influenced by George's time well-spent in OMEN and BANSHEE. Either way, it totally redeems these Texans and their attempt at perpetuating the dream.

The tongue lash of “Fire Eater”, their sixth studio album, is not as engaging as either “Avenger” or “Absolute Power”, and the production of my digital version is seriously lacking. However, the musicianship is still top-notch, George's vocals are still crystal clear, and songs like “Red Cell” obviate that the immortal band are willing to step outside their niche and can break free of certain limitations.

Hail the lasting message of these avengers!

4 Star Rating

1. Everyone Dies
2. Dead Again
3. Valhalla
4. Son Of A God
5. Angela
6. Harlot Of Eden
7. Red Cell
8. The Ripper (Judas Priest cover)
9. Year Of Jubilee
10. The Last Message
11. Eye Of The Serpent
George Call - Vocals, Guitar
Keith Knight -  Bass / Vocals
Chris Menta – Guitar / Backing Vocals
Danny White - Drums
Record Label: Pure Steel Records


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Edited 06 December 2022

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