Steel Attack - Enslaved
Arise Records
Aggressive Power Metal
9 songs (46:04)
Release year: 2004
Arise Records
Reviewed by Mike

Here is the fourth album from Swedish Power Metallers, Steel Attack. Man, have these guys changed quite a bit from their 1999 debut, Where Mankind Fails. First of all, let me highlight some of the personnel changes that Steel Attack has endured. Guitarist John Allan is the only band member that remains from the debut. The band's previous release, Predator of the Empire saw a change of vocalists; enter Dick Johnson. With Enslaved, the band enlists their third vocalist in four albums; enter Ronny Hemlin. Along with John Allan, drummer Mike Stark is the only carryover from the previous album. As you can tell, the lineup of this band has been on a "revolving door" basis ever since Fall Into Madness. As a result, it's easy to see why this album is so much different from the band's previous works. Although the name is the same, it's basically a different band that released those first two upbeat, happy power metal album. Having said all this, I won't even make comparisons with the band's previous albums, it would be like comparing apples and oranges. I'll just offer my feedback and opinion of the album at hand, Enslaved.

Enslaved still falls within the power metal genre, but they have developed a sound that is more aggressive that what you would typically expect from a power metal outfit. Steel Attack incorporates some ingredients into their sound that help them move away from the typical power metal blueprint. For example, newly recruited vocalist Ronny Hemlin mixes in a handful of brief harsh vocal lines in about half the songs. I will say that the harsh vocals are used sparingly enough, and at strategic times that this "experiment" can easily be considered a success. Immortal Hate (as you might guess from the title alone) is the one song on the album that most prominently features some very well placed harsh vocals. The variation in vocals styles to include some harsh growls only makes sense; the riffing and rhythms are aggressive, and so the occasional harsh vocal line fits right in to accentuate this. As far as the guitar work goes, many of the riffs would easily find a home on a thrash metal album, but they are more than welcome on this album. The pounding rhythm section reminds me very much of Grave Digger at their heaviest. I also like the fact (some may not) that Steel Attack have opted not to include a ballad on this album. While most of the album is powerful assault, there are sections where the band slows down. For example Son of A Thousand Souls alternates between speedy power metal, and heavy, but slow, doomy metal. Bless My Sins offers a slow passage in the middle of the song, giving the listener a brief opportunity to catch his breath. Forsaken also alternates between mid tempo passages (almost hard rockish) and all out power bliss. For one, I like this approach. There are no power ballads that will inevitably get the "skip" treatement, yet the band is able to mix just enough tempo changes into the songs to achieve a sense of diversity. Quite frankly, I find most power metal ballads to be boring; the hard rock and AOR outfits seem best suited to write a worthwhile ballad.

In my opinion, Enslaved has a very nice two-fold attack: power and melody. The band doesn't try to over saturate the sound with either element, either. I've mentioned the band's willingness to mix in some tempo changes, but the melodies are also not over the top, or overly happy. I've mentioned the balls to the wall heavy sound of this album, but a nice sense of melody is not lost in the fury. I didn't find that these songs jumped on me after the first listen, it took about three full spins to absorb. Once these songs settle into your mind, I think you'll find Steel Attack's mixture of power, aggressiveness and melody to be a very well balanced sound. Furthermore, I have to applaud the band for going in a direction that distances themselves from "typical power metal." They were really heading in that direction after their first two albums, but I think Steel Attack is well poised to gain some more fans and attention with this release. I always cringe when I hear that a band is replacing vocalists, especially for the third time in four albums. This band has always found a lead singer that is more than able to deliver the goods. Ronny won't blow you away with his range, nor would I suggest that he is one of the best in the genre, but he is about as perfect as match for this music as you'll get. He has a Dio like quality to his voice, and this is better evidenced during the slower portions of the songs. He has a melodic, yet powerful delivery, paralleling the music to a tee. As I mentioned, his ability to mix in some harsh vocals adds some flavor and extra balls to this already intense album. The album is fairly consistent. I favored some songs over others, but there isn't a bad song in the bunch.

Enslaved is just what the doctor ordered for Power Metal fans that are looking for some extra aggressiveness and heavier guitars in their power metal. As we all know, there exists a group of fans that just cannot stand happy, upbeat power metal. If you fit into this category and wrote this band off after their first two albums, I think you should take a second look. For argument's sake, this is a new band, and it is not a happy, D&D power metal band. Personally, I like both agressive power metal AND happy power metal, so I enjoy the band's full discography. I can't say that this band has quite cracked the upper echelon of the metal elite, but this release certainly has them knocking on the door.

Killing Songs :
Bless My Sins, Immortal Hate, Enslaved, Son of A Thousand Souls
Mike quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by Steel Attack that we have reviewed:
Steel Attack - Diabolic Symphony reviewed by Crims and quoted 84 / 100
Steel Attack - Predator Of The Empire reviewed by Danny and quoted 80 / 100
Steel Attack - Fall Into Madness reviewed by Chris and quoted 85 / 100
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