While the US power metal flame has continued to burn over the past few years, it hasn’t felt like any band made a major splash in a while until the monolithically heavy Visigoth did so with their debut full-length last year. Fellow countrymen Eternal Champion have been around long enough that “The Revenant King” certainly didn’t ignite the spark of inspiration for them, but it would be fair to say that this band’s debut LP is equally as exciting and invigorating. Relative to the aforementioned Visigoth, Eternal Champion’s approach is subtler. They aren’t quite as in your face all the time, in part due to the more restrained and less modern production. Make no mistake though, this album brings the riffs in a manner unlike most other modern releases.
The pounding anthemic opener, “I Am The Hammer”, kicks things off in a huge way. It isn’t built on speed, but it is absurdly catchy. Eternal Champion’s vocalist unleashes his own flair of Jon Oliva on this song, as he belts out “ah” a couple of times, showing homage to the legendary “Hall of the Mountain King” title track. Things only get better after this song, with “The Armor of Ire” marking the highlight of the record. This song delivers some of the faster moments on the album. The riffing is crisp and speedy, but the drums are actually more laid back, which makes this song avoid feeling thrashy. This sound, when combined with Jason Tarpey’s hypnotic and slightly off-kilter vocals, makes for a potent combination, and one of the most memorable songs.
“The Armor of Ire” as a whole tends to utilize many of the common traits of popular US power metal bands, but never makes them feel cliché. The ominous clean guitars featured on “Invoker” bring back memories of Manilla Road, while the charging, crunchy gallops of “The Cold Sword” conjure images of Omen. The latter track also features the most impressive guitar harmonies of the album. It’s amazing that bands can still write compelling harmonized leads 36 years after Iron Maiden first devastated the rest of the world with their brilliance, but Eternal Champion has pulled it off on this record, and on more than one occasion.
Disappointments are few and far between on “The Armor of Ire”. It does seem strange to have two interlude-style songs that total over 5 minutes on a 34-minute record, but the rest of the album is so strong that it doesn’t matter too much. Aside from that, there is nothing to complain about. Some tracks are stronger than others, but that speaks more to the quality of the best songs than to the detriment of the others. “The Armor of Ire” is an impressive offering of US power metal, regardless of whether it is 2016 or 1986. Put simply, this release beats out many of the most heralded bands of the subgenre, and is undoubtedly the record that will make the biggest impact on this style in 2016!
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"I Am The Hammer"
"The Armor of Ire"
"The Cold Sword"
4.7/5 or 94%.
Written by Scott