Album Title: Where Madness Dwells
Label: High Roller Records
Date of Release: 1 July 2022
If I’m honest, when I saw this release nestled within my promo pile, I didn’t have high expectations for it. I’d never heard of Ironflame before, and the questionable and dated cover artwork did nothing to whet my appetite when I first laid eyes on it. I’ve leaned to trust my instincts though, and as we are at a point in the year when there are slightly fewer albums released, I had the time to try out those instincts once again.
The album in question is ‘Where Madness Dwells’, the fourth album from Ohio-based Ironflame, and it has taken me more than a little by surprise – in a good way. The brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Andrew D’Cagna, Ironflame was conceived back in 2016 as a one-off to honour a friend that passed away. But when you do things well, people always want more. And so here we are some six years later, with album number four, a remarkable feat in a number of ways. Not only is D’Cagna still active in other bands such as Icarus Witch and Brimstone Coven, he has essentially, once again, created the music on this latest Ironflame album himself. He is joined by guitarists Quinn Lukas and Jesse Scott, bassist James Babcock, and drummer Noah Skiba, but these guys are his live band. In the studio though, only the solos were outsourced to Lukas and Scott; the rest is all D’Cagna.
Having heard nothing of the past three albums, I cannot offer a comparison for those more familiar with Ironflame. However, what I can say is that ‘Where Madness Dwells’ is a cracking album. Deeply rooted in the ‘classic’ metal genre with plenty of NWOBHM-isms, this music will appeal to anyone who likes their metal on the more traditional end of the spectrum. Naturally therefore, the likes of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest spring to mind, the latter far more forcefully though, with songs like the title track bordering on an homage to East London’s finest, after an intro that’s early Metallica through and through, in a good way.
It’s also interesting to note that D’Cagna references the likes of Savatage, Helloween, and even 90s Swedish death metal as influences. Whilst the latter references aren’t overly obvious, once you know this, you can definitely hear some vague hints within the songs, particularly the guitar playing. Overall, it means that there’s as much of a European flavour as a US one.
But above and beyond all else, ‘Where Madness Dwells’ delivers forth a collection of ten highly enjoyable, catchy, and quality heavy metal songs which you’d have to be deaf or devoid of music taste not to quickly latch on to and take great pleasure from listening.
“Famine, pestilence, war, disease, and death. They rule this world.”
This quote from the 1964 film, ‘The Masque Of The Red Death’ opens the album, as the intro to ‘Everlasting Fire’, but within seconds my mind is consumed by the riff that ensues, which is an energetic, up-tempo, and catchy affair. The vocals of D’Cagna do sound similar to those of Bruce Dickinson, whilst the central riff echoes Maiden. But when it all comes together this powerfully and with such a brazen swagger, who am I to criticise? Especially when Maiden seem to be concentrating on countless epics rather than their shorter, punchier material these days. ‘Everlasting Fire’, with its hooks, immediate chorus, and rip-roaring solos is a tonic for my ears.
But are we in the presence of a one-song wonder though? Don’t you believe it, not even for one second. No sooner has the opener disappeared, it is replaced by ‘Under The Spell’, which increases tempo even more and brings with it some slight thrashy overtones, especially in the brisk riffs and rhythm section where the drums in particular are pretty relentless. However, again, the song is memorable thanks to some great hooks, especially in the central harmony licks and riffs that emerge after the halfway point. I have to remind myself frequently that this is, aside from the lead guitar solos, the work of just one man, albeit an incredibly talented man.
I’m going to be absolutely fair here and say that, in a couple of places, the songs don’t grab me as strongly as others, but that’s not a comment on the quality of the material. Moreso, it’s a question of personal taste I would say. But the positives far outweigh the negatives as far as I’m concerned, with several songs delivering some wonderfully powerful heavy metal.
One of these high points arrives in the form of the slower, more brooding, ‘A Funeral Within’. The pace lends an old school doom atmospheric to the song, a little Sorcerer-esque, aided by some of the most prominent bass to be heard on the album. But it remains an endearing and catchy composition with ballad-like overtones to it also, as well as the ubiquitous lead breaks.
I really enjoy the thunderous intensity of the up-tempo ‘The Phantom Flame’ with its infectious lead guitar lines and punishing drumming. The melodies within ‘A Curse Upon Mankind’ get quickly and firmly lodged in my brain too.
But quite possibly my favourite of them all is ‘Infernal Angels’ thanks to the most irresistible chorus that gets better and better with every passing listen. Oh, and how can I forget the classic ‘oh, oh, oh’ passage that you can imagine getting sung with gusto at live shows the world over? It’s a wonderful song, and I have taken it to my heart in the same way that I have taken the entire album to my heart. I love it when I’m taken off guard and sideswiped by a previously unknown entity, and Ironflame have done just that to me. I can see ‘Where Madness Dwells’ getting very regular rotation in the Mansion Of Much Metal over the coming months, because it’s one of those albums that plants a great big smile on your face and reminds you of why you got into heavy metal in the first place all those years ago. If NWOBHM or classic/trad metal floats your boat, then ‘Where Madness Dwells’ by Ironflame requires your immediate attention.
The Score of Much Metal: 90%
Check out my other 2022 reviews here:
Horizon Ignited – Towards The Dying Lands
Municipal Waste – Electrified Brain
Paganizer – Behind The Macabre
Charlie Griffiths – Tiktaalika
Winds Of Tragedy – As Time Drifts Away
Denouncement Pyre – Forever Burning
Truent – Through The Vale Of Earthly Torment
Artificial Brain -Artificial Brain
Seventh Wonder – The Testament
All Things Fallen – Shadow Way
Def Leppard – Diamond Star Halos
Remains Of Destruction – New Dawn
Crematory – Inglorious Darkness
Septic Flesh – Modern Primitive
Blut Aus Nord – Disharmonium – Undreamable Abysses
Spheric Universe Experience – Back Home
Cosmic Putrefaction – Crepuscular Dirge For The Blessed Ones
Morgue Supplier – Inevitability
Evergrey – A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament)
Pure Reason Revolution – Above Cirrus
I Am The Night – While The Gods Are Sleeping
Haunted By Silhouettes – No Man Isle
LionSoul – A Pledge To Darkness
Watain – The Agony And Ecstasy Of Watain
Incandescence – Le Coeur De L’Homme
Imminent Sonic Destruction – The Sun Will Always Set
Viande – L’abime dévore les âmes
Postcards From New Zealand – Burn, Witch, Burn
Bjørn Riis – Everything To Everyone
Et Moriemur – Tamashii No Yama
Chapter Of Hate – Bloodsoaked Decadence EP
Ancient Settlers – Our Last Eclipse
Playgrounded – The Death Of Death
Father Befouled – Crowned In Veneficum
PreHistoric Animals – The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter 2)
Michael Romeo – War Of The Worlds, Part 2
Dark Funeral – We Are The Apocalypse
The Midgard Project – The Great Divide
Threads Of Fate – The Cold Embrace Of The Light
Arkaik – Labyrinth Of Hungry Ghosts
New Horizon – Gate Of The Gods
Cailleach Calling – Dreams Of Fragmentation
Sabaton – The War To End All Wars
Shape Of Despair – Return To The Void
Embryonic Devourment – Heresy Of The Highest Order
Serious Black – Vengeance Is Mine
Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s Star One – Revel In Time
Pure Wrath – Hymn To The Woeful Hearts
Embryonic Autopsy – Prophecies Of The Conjoined
The Devils Of Loudun – Escaping Eternity
Cult Of Luna – The Long Road North
Abysmal Dawn – Nightmare Frontier
Vorga – Striving Toward Oblivion
Ashes Of Ares – Emperors And Fools
Nocturna – Daughters Of The Night
Lee McKinney – In The Light Of Knowledge
Ilium – Quantum Evolution Event EP
Power Paladin – With The Magic Of Windfyre Steel
Necrophagous – In Chaos Ascend
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: