New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: iron maiden band

Icon of Sin Put an Expertly Cynical, Smart Update on a Classic Metal Sound

Brazilian band Icon of Sin play a surreal blend of gritty, anthemic late 70s acid rock and early 80s British metal. They take the spirit of early Iron Maiden to its logical conclusion, but with more original and tuneful songcraft than most heavy riff acts. Frontman Raphael Mendes sings in English, in an operatic Bruce Dickinson baritone with a sinister wink. Beyond the drama, it’s not often obvious what he’s singing about, adding to the surrealistic factor. Bassist Caio Vidal plays with a Steve Harris snap, but closer to the ground. Likewise, drummer CJ Dubiella keeps the drive straight-ahead and uncluttered. Guitarists Sol Perez and Mateus Cantaleãno play catchy, anthemic changes with soloing that’s flashy enough to draw some blood but not so much that it becomes a cartoon. Their new album, streaming at Spotify, is one of the first rock records so far with the guts to tackle the ugly consequences of the lockdown, even if they do that opaquely.

They open with their brisk, propulsive theme song: hey, if you’re going to sin, you might as well do it iconically. The second track, Road Rage is an even harder-charging, thrashy number: run to the hills in your tricked-out Toyota. The guitar chords grow fangs but get even catchier in Shadow Dancer, which seems to be a celebration of all the things that can only be found when the sun goes down.

Unholy Battleground is a heavy biker rock tune in a Death Wheelers vein, peaking out with a tasty, bluesy solo: a war-on-terror critique, maybe. Nightbreed is just as grimly anthemic, a big backbeat tune with tinges of 80s goth.

Is the lickety-split, Motorhead-inspired Virtual Empire a cynical commentary on the lockdowners’ attempt to take all human interaction online, where they can spy on you 24/7, Chinese Communist style? It would seem so. The band keep things in the here and now with the even more corrosive Pandemic Euphoria, which could be the UK Subs at the peak of their metal phase. The album’s best and most epic track is Clouds Over Gotham, shifting between gentle, early Genesis-tinged interludes, a fullscale stampede and nightmarish symphonic angst…but if Mendes’ prophecy comes true, we will rise again!

Arcade Generation is a steady, midtempo metal take on Stiv Bators’ old observation about how video games train the kids for war. The band turn Japanese for a moment in The Last Samurai, with its elegant folk-tinged intro and rapidfire, bellicose Asian riffage. They nick a classic early 80s Maiden sound for in The Howling and stick with it for the closing cut, Survival Instinct. Let’s hope they survive to make another album as good as this one.

The Blackfires Go Over the Edge and Back at Slake

By the time the Blackfires took the stage at their most recent New York show, almost two hours past the advertised start time at Slake – the recently expanded space a few blocks south of Madison Square Garden that for many years housed Downtime and then Albion – the overworked smoke machine had pretty much cleared out what was left of the crowd. And then in a second it was as if a flashmob had just arrived. With members from Russia, Spain, Uruguay, England and the US, the world’s arguably most multicultural metal band treated the audience to a volcanic, relentless assault seemingly tailor-made for Ozzfest or Donington. To get to witness this in such a relatively intimate room was a treat. They’ll be doing an even more intimate show at the Mercury on Sept 13 at 10:30; advance tix are $10 and highly recommended.

They got off to a good start with a stomping, stalking update on a classic Texas shuffle with expertly choreographed twin guitar riffage, possibly titled Walking Over You. But the next song built quickly to a florid chorus where frontman Andrey “Cheggi” Chegodaev’s campy falsetto started to sound more like an impersonator like Tammy Faye Starlite than an original artist – but then Gibson Les Paul player Anthony Mullin’s icepick bluesmetal riffage pulled the song away from self-parody. And it was after the next tune that a purist would have been asking himself (or herself), is this where somebody hits the singer with a pickle, and a meme is born? Mullin ended up having to come to the rescue a second time – and then, the band got serious, and stayed that way, and after a tantalizing hour onstage, were rewarded with screams for an encore – which they ended up not getting to play.

Getting to that point was a roller-coaster ride through the inferno. Mullin and Gibson SG player Hector Marin followed with a mashup of psycho Texas blues and Motorhead, Mullin using it as a launching pad for a long barrage of lighting volleys. How he managed to be so precise yet so unhinged was viscerally breathtaking to watch: Jack the Ripper with a guitar. And as the show went on, it turned out that Marin was every bit as fast and intense, with duck-and-cover stage moves to match. Bassist Grasebo Doe anchored the music with his growling lines, snapping at his strings to the point that it sounded like something was about to break, but nothing did. Drummer Joe Mitch held everything together with a surprising but effective, close-to-the-ground four-on-the-floor stomp.

From there the band swayed through an evilly lurid ba-BUMP noir cabaret tune spun through a warped metal prism, the kind of song that Kiss or Alice Cooper would take a shot at back in the 70s but never had the chops to play. Once again, Mullin delivered chills with his bone-shaking vibrato, winding it up with a nasty pickslide. Then he tuned down for a mean Johnny Winter-style slide guitar intro and waves of machinegunning riffage on another Texas shuffle..

Rocker Child, a vintage Judas Priest style anthem from the band’s Live from the Cutting Room album, hit a warp-speed interlude before the band reeled it back in. After a well-intentioned but pretty hopeless cover, the music threatened to drift back toward sludgy powerpop disguised as metal, but Mullin and Marin redeemed it with a furious duel that brought to mind Iron Maiden’s Adrian Smith and Dave Murray at their mid-80s peak.