Released By: AFM Records
Release Date: October 14th, 2016
Genre: Heavy/Power Metal
Diego Valdez – Vocals
Dushan Petrossi – Guitars
Vassili Moltchanov – Bass
Ramy Ali – Drums
1. I Don’t Forget, I Don’t Forgive
2. Doctor Faust
4. Oliver Twist
5. March 666
6. All for Metal
7. The Rebellion of Lucifer
9. The First and the Last
11. Flying Fortress
12. Cursed in the Devil’s Mill
Dushan Petrossi has a been a busy man in recent years, making a new album for his main band Iron Mask every 2-3 years, as well as finally returning to his other band Magic Kingdom last year for the very impressive Savage Requiem. While his style has evolved over the years from a neoclassical power metal sound to more of a mix of heavy metal, power metal and even some hard rock, the quality of his music has remained great as always, so I always look forward to hearing new albums from him. His latest is Diabolica, the sixth full-length release from Iron Mask, and once again he has created a great album filled with excellent guitar work, plenty of big vocal hooks, and memorable songwriting.
I was a little bit disappointed with the last Iron Mask release, “Fifth Son of Winterdoom”, as it pushed the power metal elements back a bit, in favor of a more hard rock flavored sound, and while it still had some great songs, it’s up there with Shadow of the Red Baron as my least favorite I’ve heard by Dushan. The fact that it came straight after the excellent Black as Death only left me more concerned about the direction of the band, so I was a bit nervous about where he would go with this album.
Well, it turns out he didn’t really go anywhere in particular. What I mean by that is, where most of his previous albums have had their own distinct feel while still being recognizable, with this release and Savage Requiem it seems as if he has reached a point where his bands are starting to blend together more than in the past, with this release in particular feeling like somewhat of a “Greatest Hits” collection. There’s everything that you’d expect here, including simple, fast-paced and fun power metal tracks like the opener “ I Don’t Forget, I Don’t Forgive” and “Oliver Twist”, slightly more complex and technical neoclassical power metal, especially on “ Doctor Faust” , dark heavy metal like the title track, “Ararat” and “The Rebellion of Lucifer”, epic melodic heavy metal like “Galileo”, which has a slight Iron Maiden feel at points with its melodic guitar leads, a decently fast and super catchy track in “The First and the Last”, a slightly hard rock flavored track in “Flying Fortress”, and of course the super big closing track “ Cursed in the Devil’s Mill”. Even lyrically this is quite the varied release, with some tracks dealing with historical and literary themes (even biblical themes on one track,) while others are more simplistic, like the ultra silly “March 666” and of course metal worshiping track “All for Metal”, which is extremely stupid but fun, in a guilty pleasure sort of way. While I can’t help but feel the album comes off more of a compilation than a cohesive album where everything fits together perfectly, every song here is well written, so I can’t say I’m unhappy with it, especially after the previous release was slightly weaker than normal.
One area where Dushan has always struggled is finding the right singer and sticking with him. Iron Mask, in particular, has never had the same lead singer for more than two consecutive albums, and this trend continues, with Mark Boals leaving after his second album. This time around the vocals are sung by Diego Valdez, who I had heard with Argentinian heavy/power metal band Helker, and I have always liked him. He has a powerful, gritty voice that fits the music well. In fact, he honestly sounds a bit similar to Mark Boals, so that helps keep a similar sound to the vocals, even if the man behind the voice is different. He excels on harder hitting tracks like, “I Don’t Forget, I Don’t Forgive”, but he also sounds excellent on choruses, especially on “The First and the Last”, which has easily the best chorus on the album. In fact, that track reminds me a lot of “The Absence” from Black as Death, which is one of my favorites by the band.
I already gave a bit of an idea of what the songwriting is like on this album, so I won’t go into full details as usual, but I’d like to give special mentions to a few favorites. First up, opener “I Don’t Forget, I Don’t Forgive” is a very fast-paced, instantly engaging track with a great, super catchy chorus, that immediately hooks you in. Meanwhile, “Doctor Faustus” is still fast, but a little more complex, and it features some great neoclassical guitar work from Dushan, especially on the leads and the excellent solo section, where the music gets surprisingly heavy at points. The track also has minor symphonic elements, as do some other tracks, most notably “The Rebellion of Lucifer”, and “Ararat”. The former is a track that took a while for me to appreciate, but the contrast between its dark, heavy chorus and its light, melodic chorus eventually won me over. I of course mentioned “The First and the Last” multiple times already, but it’s definitely my favorite track on the album, and it has some truly fantastic melodies. Another favorite is the fast paced, super fun track “Oliver Twist”, which has some extremely fun vocal lines, especially during the chorus. Lastly, the near 14 minute closing track “Cursed in the Devil’s Mill” is excellent from start to finish, making great use of acoustic guitars in its early portions, as well as some epic heavy metal leads during an impressive middle section, but it’s actually a pretty fast-paced track on the whole, with a great chorus and quite a few memorable moments. Dushan has always been great at epic length tracks, and this time, he has succeeded once again.
Overall, Diabolica is a great new release that should easily please existing fans of Iron Mask and Dushan Petrossi. It feels like a celebration of everything the band (and its leader) have done in the past, pulling together elements of all previous releases to create an album that while not overly original or unique, definitely provides some excellent power metal from start to finish. It may not be one of the band’s all-time best, but it’s certainly better than the likes of Fifth Son of Winterdoom and Shadow of the Red Baron. I’d personally put it right up there with Black as Death, and I’d recommend it for all heavy/power metal fans who haven’t already discovered this band.
Reviewer: Travis Green