Album Review: Possessed Steel – Aedris

Possessed Steel

Album Review: Possessed Steel – Aedris
Reviewed by Jon Wigg

Examining the cover of this debut from Canadian trad-metallers Possessed Steel, one might imagine that ‘Aedris’ is going to another standard power metal, dungeons and dragons, swords and sorcery inspired set of tracks. There is nothing wrong with that, and I’m a self-confessed fan, but there are a lot of mediocre releases in this sphere. The photos of the band - beards, battle vests and bare chests - didn’t allay my fears. But I’m pleased to report that this is a release of musical excellence and high quality.

There is an element of the previously mentioned cliches, with a dungeons and dragons story running through the album - you can even buy tote bags with a map of the tale on their Bandcamp page - but this is a musically varied album that deserves attention from any fan of traditional heavy metal, such as Iron Maiden, (Lord Weird) Slough Feg, Cirith Ungol and Omen.

Album Review: Possessed Steel - Aedris

Kicking off with a traditional atmospheric introduction, ‘Aedris’ launches with the excellent ‘Spellblade’ which bounces along well and noticeably, for a traditional metal track, avoids the overused repeatable, chantable chorus. Indeed this particular cliche is avoided on the entire album. ‘Spellblade’ is elevated in the final quarter when the mid-pace is replaced with a more up-tempo instrumental/solo section driven by the fantastic bass work from Don Bachinski. Indeed the high mix for the bass serves the entire album well, as Bachinski really shines throughout.

‘Keeper of the Woods’ is up next, and has a more upbeat feel with a great mix of deep bass and guitar riffs, reminiscent of early Iron Maiden. As with the previous track, Possessed Steel are not content in sticking with the same style through the entire track, as the vocals switch from clean to almost black metal rasping during a doomy, malevolent ending. Another short instrumental, ‘Forest of the Dead’ leads into ‘Frost Lich’ which has more of the sinister edge and allows vocalist/guitarist Talon Sullivan to show his abilities with both deep clean vocals and more of the black metal style, which works really well. The drum fills from Richard Rizzo also lift the track into a highlight on the album as does the twin guitar work from Sullivan and Steve Mac.

‘Assault of the Twilight Keep’ is a more traditional speed metal track akin to the early ‘Blind Guardian’ bangers such as ‘Banished from Sanctuary’, before the album's ballad ‘Free at Last’. This is a good change of pace and is placed perfectly in the album, with a nice folk feel and the use of acoustic instrumentation rather than a corny power metal style is welcome. The fantastically titled ‘Bogs of Agathorn’ builds nicely and has a good main riff in the traditional heavy metal style before upping the tempo to showcase some of the best soloing on the album. ‘Skeleton King’ also follows this structure, gaining momentum as it progresses and has some more excellent synergy between the bass and guitar lines. Album closer ‘Nobunaga’ starts with the tempo raised and some more top notch riffing before slowing down to allow some great soloing to close the affair.

The production on the album is warm and as previously mentioned the bass mix is high. All of the instruments are clear and defined but synchronised at the same time. The performances of all 4 members are excellent. Sullivan’s use of clean and black metal vocals is clever and assists in the narrative, and he sticks to the mid-range which I would assume is where he is most comfortable. No strained attempts to be Rob Halford or Hansi Kursch here, and ‘Aedris’ is better for it.

Overall a brilliant debut album from a band that has been around for almost a decade, previously producing 2 EPs. The changes in style and pace, while maintaining the overarching traditional heavy metal feel, make the album feel fresh and new - a difficult feat in the genre. My highlights are ‘Frost Lich’ and ‘Keepers of the Woods’ but any track would fit well into my daily playlist.

Discovering Possessed Steel and ‘Aedris’ has made my life just a little bit better. I hope it does the same for you.

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