About two and a half years ago, I covered Blood Red Victory, the third full-length album from Ironflame, and I nearly dropped the 4.0hammer™ on it. That record had some incredible traditional anthems on it, and the chorus of “Honor Bound” still runs through my head every so often—usually when I’m forced to deal with a commitment that I regret making. The Ohio-based Ironflame is the brainchild of one Andrew D’Cagna, an artist probably best known for his work as a drummer in blackened bands like Nechochwen and Obsequiae, but this project reveals that D’Cagna’s abilities cannot be contained to just one instrument or just one style of music. A recent interview finds D’Cagna admitting that Ironflame is especially dear to him because it’s the one project over which he has total musical control and can write—and play—exactly what he wants. When I reviewed Blood Red Victory, I felt like D’Cagna was on the verge of true greatness, and I’m happy to report that follow-up Where Madness Dwells proves that, as usual, I was right.
Where Madness Dwells once again finds D’Cagna writing and performing everything except the guitar solos, and the comparisons of Maiden and Dio leveled at Blood Red Victory are perhaps even more applicable here. D’Cagna’s voice feels more powerful than ever, and his mixture of grit and aerodynamics puts him right at the intersection of Dio and Dickinson. Where Blood Red Victory focused more on epic flair, Where Madness Dwells generally opts for a straightforward heavy metal attack, and it’s hard to argue with the results. Embedded single “Kingdom of Lies” shows Ironflame’s strengths firing on all cylinders, its driving rhythms, histrionic leads, pounding drums, and soaring chorus relating a cautionary tale about our present and our potential future.
D’Cagna’s choice to focus on pure heavy metal, not to mention his flawless track ordering, makes Where Madness Dwells and its ten tracks and 50 minutes fly by. The opening trio of “Everlasing Fire,” “Under the Spell,” and “Kingdom of Lies” is something of an opening artillery barrage, softening the target before the heavy cavalry arrives in the form of “The Funeral Within,” a mid-paced grinder that throws a bit of Metallica’s melancholic balladry into Ironflame’s Maiden/Dio recipe. The pace picks up again with another trio of bangers before the epic title track comes along to break up the assault. I can usually tell if I’m onto some quality traditional metal if my 8-year-old son can be heard singing lines from the promo throughout his day, and he’s been randomly belting out “Under the Spell” and “Ready to Strike” for weeks now.
As minor as my issues with Blood Red Victory might have been, Where Madness Dwells has banished them to the abyss. This record is remarkably consistent, and I’ve been known to repeat it 3 or 4 times in a row while evaluating it. D’Cagna’s songwriting just reeks of authenticity, and many of these tracks could stand toe-to-toe with songs from the great metal bands of olde. Arriving just in time for the heat of summer here in the Northern Hemisphere, you’ll enjoy blasting all ten of these tracks with your windows down on the highway.
Where Madness Dwells is the album that Iron Maiden fans have been wishing for since 2006, or 2000, or maybe even 1988. It combines Maiden’s modern shift towards epic darkness with the tight, hard-hitting songwriting that those metal gods abandoned long ago. With four solid albums under its belt, D’Cagna’s Ironflame demands to be mentioned among the cream of the US traditional metal crop alongside bands like Eternal Champion and Visigoth.1 Don’t bother reaching for your Class D extinguisher, because nothing can cool this platter of fiery metal.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: High Roller Records
Websites: ironflame.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/ironflameusa
Releases Worldwide: July 1st, 2022