Iron Mask is guitarist Dushan Petrossi's (Magic Kingdom - a Belgian Power Metal band) side project/protest band. "Protest Band" because, due to contractual problems with their former label (Music Avenue), Magic Kingdom's second album, Metallic Tragedy, had been recorded and remained unreleased for almost 3 years. While waiting for the legal issues surrounding Metallic Tragedy to be resolved, Dushan was busy creating guitar driven, Neo-Classical, Hard Rock, and Power/Progressive songs for a side project he was working. Finnish label Lion Music offered to sign his side project, and Dushan was happy to sign to allow the release of his endeavours. And so, Iron Mask was born, their debut album Revenge Is My Name was recorded and released in 2002. (The album title is aimed at the music business 'Sharks').
Iron Mask’s second outing, Hordes Of The Brave, seems to have shifted up a few gears from Revenge Is My Name. This could be because Iron Mask, being with Lion Music, Dushan was able to envisage the whole project all the way to the CD in the record stores; something he could not do with Revenge Is My Name with all the negativity an uncertainty that was surrounding him at the time. Also, the line-up change seems to have added that extra quality to the mix, that extra something that you can’t quite put your finger on; you just know it’s there!
On Lead Vocals is Goetz Mohr (aka Valhalla Jr), who has the power and versatility to compete with the potent, technicality of the instrumental assault, going on around him. Goetz’s vocals are not really of the typical Euro Power Metal mode, more rough edged than high pitched. He also has a phenomenal range, demonstrating a powerful display of vocal gymnastics that really sets Hordes Of The Brave apart from other albums in this sub-genre of Power Metal.
Guest vocalist on the tracks "The Invisible Empire" and "Crystal Tears" is Oliver Hartmann (ex At Vance); long time fans of At Vance should recognise the vocal style straight away, he also duets with Goetz on "Iced Wind of the North," which is one of the most re-playable tracks on the album.
The rhythm section of Iron Mask has absconded direct from Magic Kingdom. Vassili Moltchanov, on bass, certainly hits out with the low blows, letting you feel the beat right at the base of the spine to echo through the rest of your bones. Not only does he keep the beat galloping along on the faster tracks, but also laying down the dark atmospherics for the more slower “Time,” “Alexander The Greatm” and ”My Eternal Flame.” Anton Arkhipov shows some excellent footwork on double-kick, beating out intricate and technical patterns rather than the incessant machine gun rattle produced by other, less proficient, drummers in this style of music. Keeping a rhythm section that is well known to each other was a masterful stroke by Dushan.
Majestic keyboard wizard Richard Andersson plays a blinding role on this album. Not only does he play outstandingly brilliant solos (“Demon’s Child” just leaves you slack-jawed), but adds flair to some already harmonic and melodic keys/guitar duet/duals with Dushan (“Time”, “Alexander The Great,” “The Invisible Empire”).
The guitar playing of the man behind the band covers a wide range of styles; Neo-Classical, Rock, Hard Rock and varying Power Metal variants. On his Neo-Classical interludes, the influences of Verdi, some Mozart, and a lot of Paganini (Remember the Steve Vai -v- Lightning guitar duel in the movie Crossroads!) are well exercised. Although Dushan is probably best known for his Neo-Classical guitaring style, he is quite economical with it on Hordes Of The Brave; yet when he does let rip, on tracks such as “Holy War,” “Demon’s Child,” and “Iced Wind Of The North,”, you can certainly hear why he is one of, if not THE, best Neo-Classical guitarists around.
Unlike some guitarist who decide to record a side project album, Dushan does not use Iron Mask as a personal platform to go on an egotistical ride of self-gratification. The creation of Hordes Of The Brave has come about through the mind-meld of equals. You can feel that every musician has had free input in the making of this album. The vocals were recorded at Oliver Hartmann’s Alive Studios and it is presumed, that whilst there, Dushan asked Oliver to guest on the album. Or, perhaps whilst recording, Oliver may have given advice on certain aspects of the vocals and Dushan decided that rather than Goetz trying to sing in an unfamiliar style, coached by Oliver, it would be best if Oliver sang the track himself. Or maybe Dushan planned to use Oliver on the album from the start. Whatever the scheme of things was, it shows that every aspect of the album was meticulously arranged, prepared and executed; with the right man, in the right job, with the right instrument, doing the best job he could.
01 “Holy War”
02 “Freedom’s Blood – The Patriot”
03 “The Invisible Empire”
04 “High In The Sky”
05 “Demon’s Child”
06 “Alexander The Great – Hordes Of The Brave (Part 1)
07 “Crystal Tears”
08 “Iced Wind Of The North”
10 “My Eternal Flame”
11 “Troops Of Avalon”