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First Strike - Call to Glory

First Strike
Call to Glory
by Max Elias at 12 June 2019, 10:48 PM

The new album by FIRST STRIKE begins on an epic note; first song ‘I Will Not Fall’ rides in on a slightly funky drumbeat similar to Run to the Hills, soon joined by an equally infectious bassline. Soaring vocals from Garcia come to define the track, executed on top of fairly typical Iron Maiden riffs. That and the solo towards the end are classic power metal—not too difficult or bombastic, but melodic and impactful all the same. Although the vocals are a high falsetto rather than Bruce Dickinson screams, the style fits.

Their soaring opener is followed by the ballad ‘Believe In A Dream’ which is classic 80s power ballad material, opening on clean arpeggiated passages before becoming heavy. It also rests heavily on the strength of the vocals, and this vocalist really does have an impressive voice. His range is not his only trick; he packs surprising emotion into his clean performance as well. Instrumentally, it is well done and there is a reason the formula is still emulated today, but the riffing is pretty standard. The neoclassically-inflected solo is a nice touch, however.

‘Flyin’ High’ give us something that sounds like it came off Judas Priest’s Thunder Road—more hard rock than metal, but still enough to get fists and heads pumping. Even the fills sound like Glenn Tipton had a guest appearance. The vocals are there to remind you that this is not Priest, and as the song progresses it starts to sound more and more distinct anyway. The solo sounds like a hybrid of Randy Rhoads (but the bluesy, whammy-bar fascinated Rhoads, not the neoclassical one) and Glenn Tipton.

Everyone here is an important bandmember, which we saw with the gradual intro in ‘I Will Not Fall’ and see here again on ‘Call To Glory’, which starts with a rumbling bass riff joined by drums and sparse guitar, before morphing into an upbeat charging number. Yes, again the parts sound fairly typical of what you picture when someone says the phrase ‘power metal’, but there are some twists; they put in a telephone ringing sound effect, for example. I guess the call was literal.

‘The End of Time’ has a good buildup to it, and the intro solo sets a mood wonderfully. The riffs also seem less generic, although there is definitely a common thread to this and the rest of what First Strike have written; the song is halfway between ballad and driving attack, and this time the drum work is much less static. Like all power ballads, there is a big focus on the eventual solo, which once again does not disappoint.

If ‘The End of Time’ was half-ballad, ‘Sail Away’ is entirely so. It is mournful, the arpeggios are haunting, and the power in the vocalist’s voice is put to good use here. The drumming is understated like the guitar, placing the spotlight squarely on vocals. The only time electricity comes into this at all is when the solo kicks in; an 80s arena-rock stalwart of long bends, simple melodies, and emotion that lasts as long as it needs to and no more. Surprisingly, ‘Tears’ is not the same, but rather a hard-hitting streamlined attack of galloping drums and blood-chilling screams. It does space itself out during verses, opting for long ringing chords still saturated in dirt.

Strong and defiant is the modus operandi of ‘Never’, with big chords and heart-stirring gallops. The song has not one, but two leads across its 5:15 run time, the second one longer and more acrobatic. After that, winter is evidently coming, and not just because George R.R. Martin said so. ‘Dawn of Winter’ assails listeners with urgent, boisterous riffs alternated with arpeggiation and wistful wailing. In this regard it is not too different from the other songs presented here (riffs, check; ballad, check; lead guitar spotlight, check), but this version of the song also has a bass solo! It isn’t part of the rest of it, I think it was included because this is a live version.

Some of this album is made up of live performances; ‘First Strike’ begins with the frontman reminding people to tip waitstaff. Which is always good advice, to be fair. From there, the song is classic, riff-driven U.S power metal. By this point it’s not original, but it is well-done—which is a pretty good summation of the album as a whole. The individual musicians are all adept at what they do and the songs are catchy, but nothing that will change or expand the genre.

Songwriting: 9
Originality: 7
Memorability: 8
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. I Will Not Fall
2. Believe In a Dream
3. Flyin’ High
4. Call to Glory
5. The End of Time
6. Sail Away
7. Tears
8. Never
9. Dawn of Winter
10. Rainbow’s End
11. First Strike
12. Magic Mirror
13. Hideaway
Lineup:
Bonzo Amin - Bass, Keyboards
Charles Ortiz - Drums
John Fenol Guitars
Steve DeBlanc - Guitars
Vince Garcia - Vocals
Record Label: Arkeyn Steel Records
     


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