Fireforce – Rage of War Review

Fireforce – Rage of War ReviewI love Dr. A.N. Grier, and I don’t care who knows it. Sure, he may tell me that he hates me a half-dozen times a day on average, but I see straight through that hard, vengeful exterior to the soft, tasty morsels that reside within his heart. I know him so well that I can often reply to anything he might say with two softly-spoken words: I know. He loves when I do this, and I know this despite the scowls, hisses, and exhortations to “fucking die” that inevitably follow my loving utterances. In short, I want to be just like him. That’s why I shamelessly asked if he was planning to review Fireforce‘s Rage of War, the follow up to Annihilate the Evil, a record he had mixed feelings about back in 2017. “Yeah, no, you can have it haha,” was his adorable reply. Tickled pink — by Doc‘s bloody gloves, of course — I skipped away with my promo, excited to write my name where the good doctor’s had once been written.

Belgium’s Fireforce graduated from the same military academy that produced beefy power and/or heavy metal war machines like Dream EvilMystic Prophecy, and Sabaton, and apparently these guys graduated somewhere near the middle of their class. In the trenches, Fireforce lives and dies by the almighty riff and by the gritty delivery from brand new vocalist Matt Asselberghs. The latter lands with mixed results, sometimes pleasingly coming off as a middle class man’s Matt Barlow, and sometimes sounding like a refugee that escaped from the 2000s radio hard rock scene. You can hear both on the embedded video for “Ram It” — the gruff stuff in the verses greatly overshadows the sugary chorus. But a good riff can atone for a multitude of vocal sins, and Asselberghs and longtime guitarist Erwin Suetens save the day by skillfully displaying some Iced Earth muscle.

Overall, the music makes for a fairly enjoyable listen throughout Rage of War‘s way-too-long runtime. Songs like the title track, “March or Die,” and “108-118” contain some great grooves, some ballsy vocal performances by Asselberghs, and some sweet solos. The latter is certainly one of the band’s strengths, as evidenced by the extended solo passage on album standout “Firepanzer.” Even the mid-album ballad “Forever in Time” lands with sincerity and musical heft, although I’d definitely say that Fireforce is at their best when the pedal is placed flush against the metal.

A couple of flaws hold Rage of War back from attaining higher than a “mixed” rating. Asselberghs has a tendency to land flat — and not in a charming Skelator fashion — during his more emotive singing parts, stunting the impact of otherwise good songs like “Running.” I’ve already mentioned the album’s length, but it’s worth addressing in depth. The total runtime is 59 minutes, but several of the tracks are labeled as “CD Exclusive” or “Vinyl Exclusive,” making it hard for me to know which of these tracks you will actually hear should you decide to listen to the record. I find these kinds of exclusive inclusions (no you’re an oxymoron!) to be extremely annoying. If a song is part of an album, put it on the album regardless of format, damn it! It’s even more frustrating when the vinyl exclusive “Tale of the Desert King” might actually be the best track here.

Well, would you look at that! I just gave this version of Fireforce the exact same score that ol’ Doc. Grier gave the last one! We have so much in common! Fireforce has the weapons to succeed in the tank metal genre, but they’re going to have to trim the fat and add more blitz to their krieg. Speed kills, and so do these guys when they’re shooting for heaviness. Next time, I hope the war will be a bit ragier.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: ROAR! Rock of Angels Records
Websites: fireforce.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/fireforceband
Releases Worldwide: January 15th, 2021

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