2.5 out of 5 Stars!
Here is yet another band from Finland that plays Power Metal and Symphonic Rock with smatterings of Progressive Metal elements, and with a female lead vocalist to boot. Therefore, comparisons to Nightwish are inevitable.
But unlike their country-mates, Ironica’s music is less Symphonic overall, and instead, more entrenched in Power Metal territory (or perhaps even pure Heavy Metal, were it not for the keyboards). Plus, the singer, Elina Iron, has more of a Hard Rock/Heavy Metal approach when it comes to her powerful, wide-ranging voice and style, using plenty of high notes, but no operatic falsetto whatsoever.
Still, there are huge similarities between the bands, especially when one considers the abundance of highly orchestrated keyboard backgrounds. And probably enough similarities to at least put a smile on the faces of many Nightwish fans, I’m sure.
The opening two tracks, “Dive” and “Stop Me,” fully display these similarities—Elina’s generally impressive vocals over the thundering Power Metal beat, with the grand and thriving keyboards atop the full and chunky guitars. Not a horrible sound overall—far from it, actually—and the band does it quite well.
Yet it turns out that nearly all seven additional tracks sound almost identical, and that’s where my chief criticism lies (and the main reason I gave this album a slightly lower-than-average score).
Unfortunately, just about every track sounds the same, has similar driving beats, along with comparable instrumentation as well as the nearly identical “Verse / Chorus / Verse / Chorus / Bridge / Guitar Solo / Chorus” pattern. A little variety in arrangements and rhythms would have gone a long way in helping to differentiate each song from the other. This is where Nightwish, Within Temptation, Epica, or a slew of other bands playing in this genre, have the “leg-up” on Ironica. Those bands typically toss in a ballad or a mid-tempo track between some of the “galloping-a-mile-a-minute” songs, have some lighter instrumentation instead of every segment containing the same fullness whether it be verses or choruses, or feature a keyboard solo as opposed to a guitar solo from time to time. The track “Suffer Me” (the seventh track of nine) does offer a slight “morsel of difference” (the opening of the guitar solo has a way-too-brief break when it comes to the constant “full orchestration” sound, which finally gives some “air” into the album’s overall sound). But unfortunately, that’s about the only section of the album that shocked me out of the “sameness zone.”
My second criticism (and this is a personal gripe of mine, so take it for what it’s worth) is the inclusion of the occasional “growl” male vocals. They rear their ugly head on “Little Princess,” for example, and on the bridge of “Reflections,” which do absolutely nothing to enhance the songs, and do absolutely nothing for me personally except inducing me to turn down the volume to avoid the horrific noise. But “The Beast” (however appropriate the inclusion, considering the song’s title) has verses and a bridge loaded with these demonic grumps and grumbles and growls, and the track is completely unlistenable because of them. Thankfully there aren’t many tracks that suffer from this nonsense or I would have never made it through the entire album. I suppose there are enough of these “beast vocals” to satisfy fans who are into that sort of thing, but as far as I’m concerned, they could have been easily eliminated. Again, they do nothing but annoy.
Regardless, Ironica is a generally decent band overall, with a lot going for it, including having a powerful lead vocalist and a talent for performing material in the Power Metal/Symphonic Metal genres. I just wish there had been some noticeable variety in the material, some major changes in instrumentation and arrangements that would have given each track its own distinct personality. Fans of these particular hard-driving genres may not mind, but I sure do.