I have to admit that, when I first listened to Iron Griffin a couple of years ago, I was unsure what to think about this truly fascinating band. Maybe one could say that I was slightly overwhelmed back then, because if there’s one thing that can be stated with certainty, it’s the fact that the Finnish duo consisting of Oskari Räsänen (all instruments and the mind behind the band’s work) and Maija Tiljander (lead vocals) don’t care about any set norms! Quite the contrary – as the code of Epic Metal foretells, they’ll march out and find their own way.
While the band’s first release, a self-title EP released in 2017, featured Toni Pentikäinen on the vocals, it already displayed many key elements of Iron Griffin’s approach towards Epic Metal. Similar to Epic Metal-pioneers like Manilla Road or Legend, Räsänen manages to nicely fuse early 80’s Heavy Metal with 70’s Prog Rock while discreetly garnishing it with little extra sound effects, thus creating an arcane and adventurous atmosphere. Nevertheless the joining of Tiljander was all the more decisive, as her powerful, space-filling vocals were capable to heave the music on an ever higher level, as could be heard on the band’s 2019 debut album Curse of the Sky.
Now three years have passed and after not having heard a lot from the band recently they are back with their second album Storm of Magic, self-produced and self-released by Räsänen himself. It features five songs which together contribute to a total running time of around 35 minutes. Without a doubt this album is the most versatile they have released so far, offering clear alterations in style, tone and composition. The intensified implementation of synthesizers and acoustic passages on songs like “Lady of Space and Time“, “Goddess of the Moor“ and “The Witch and the King“, of which the later doesn’t feature electric guitars at all, not only provide the music with an even folkier touch, thus setting a medieval, nature-bound ambience reminiscent of British Folk Rock bands like Steeleye Span or Pentangle, but also emphasise Tiljander’s vocals and all the facets they have to offer. “Goddess of the Moor“ is the perfect example for that, as it starts of as an acoustic steadily becoming heavier and in parallel to this climatic progression also her vocals evolve from starting of rather softly to unfolding in pure power! Evenly striking is the peculiar composition, which definitely channels the progressive energy but never becomes too mechanical – quite the contrary: It always feels like a natural flow, which consequently amplifies the immersion into this enchanting, exciting world. It really has this captivating, maybe even hypnotising component to it known from bands like Pagan Altar – I’ve specifically got Mythical & Magical in mind -, Lordian Guard or more recently Grendel’s Sÿster.
Yet despite these different sides it’s also more coherent as well as mature compared to the previous records. The first four tracks clearly and steadily lead up to the heart of this record, the 15-minute-long closing track. The same accounts for the overall atmosphere, which in comparison to the previous releases seems gloomier, more contemplative and throughout some parts melancholic, which partly can be traced back to the general pace of the record which one could describe as low mid-tempo flirting with Doom. The final, eponymous track quartered into four chapters manages to embrace all of the before-mentioned elements, fusing them together superbly. After an instrumental introduction, we then dwell in a rather dark scenery scarred by the impending doom. A short Latin interlude brings us to rest in order to prepare for the final chapter, the ultimate battle, the Clash of Giants. And it is now that this record fully culminates, that one is fully drawn in by the Storm of Magic! The last couple of minutes of this record really raise the banner of epicness high up to the sky, allowing this band to ascend to and join the ranks of the best active Epic Metal bands the scene has to offer right now!
Conclusion: I already implied it a couple of times, but in my opinion Iron Griffin with their second full-length album were capable of making a decisive step forward exceeding the quality of its already extremely good predecessors. Every song just blends in so perfectly into the overall picture of the album, the story it tells us, enthralling and entrancing. The composition and orchestration on this record really make the difference, it feels as if every song has its precise purpose, differing a lot from each other while still being unified in staging the grande finale, which undoubtedly is a highlight, but not only of this record rather of this whole year. Returning to my beginning statement, Iron Griffin are no simple band and it can be complicated getting into their music. But it definitely deserves the attention because as it unfolds it takes your further into its realm and before you notice it has cast its spell and you find yourself lost…in the Storm of Magic!