Last year around this time I discovered what quite possibly could be the best thing to happen to the U.S. metal scene in decades. Ironflame is the brainchild of West Virginia/Ohio powerhouse Andrew D’Cagna; who appears to be quite prolific being involved in several bands including landing the vocalist spot in Pittsburgh metal giants Icarus Witch. The project as well as the debut, Lightning Strikes the Crown, was originally intended to be just a tribute to a lost friend. However, the debut took the metal world by storm with it’s sheer brilliance. So just a little over a year later Mr. D’Cagna unleashes Tales of Splendor and Sorrow, the eagerly awaited follow up to that amazing debut and while this album did not grab me immediately like the debut, what we have here is a much more complex album.
The first thing that grabbed me about this album is it’s run time. The debut was less than forty minutes while this album runs close to fifty-two minutes. The next, and most important part, is the songs. While the debut relied on an old school metal anthem vibe, this album actually feels more thought out. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no shortage of metal anthems on this one. Songs like “The Contract” could have fit well on the debut with it’s galloping riffs and melodies. “Sword and Shield” is another anthem that is a classic in the making. Then you have “Divided We Fall,” which is a little more complex in it’s riffing but with infectious melodies, especially during the killer chorus. “The Eyes of the Beast” is truly a beast. Complex in it’s structure, the galloping rhythm of the verse leads into the slower heavy vibe of the chorus with it’s dual lead riffing behind D’Cagna’s amazing vocals.
The sheer musicianship on this album needs mention. Mr. D’Cagna not only composes all the music but also plays everything except the guitar solos,which are provided on this album by east coast axe master Jim Dofka, and these solos are fucking godly. Each one fitting the song but also tearing up the fret board. Of course one can not speak of an Ironflame album, or Andrew D’Cagna in general, without touching on his amazing vocals. This guy is no joke. I saw them perform back in December, 2017 and let me tell you his vocals were spot on with every song. This guy has a set of pipes on him…to the point that I can honestly say he is my favorite traditional metal vocalist currently behind the mic. Just listen to his vocals on “Crimson Widow” or the monster epic closer “Our Great Defender.” The latter shows D’Cagna reaching out in a more epic direction. Not as speedy as the rest of the songs on this album, it’s just a scorcher from beginning to end.
When it’s all said and done, with the release of this album there is no question that the debut by Ironflame was not just an anomaly not to be replicated or bested. In fact, it appears that this project is just getting started. I’ve been devoted to heavy metal ever since I first heard Unleashed in the East in 1979 so when I say that the two Ironflame albums are extremely important to me says a lot. This is heavy metal defined and a must for any metal head’s collection. Get this album….or leave the hall!