“Defenders of the Faith”
Steel Inferno are finally ready with their debut album “Aesthetics of Decay”. Inspired by old school speed- and heavy metal, this female fronted metal band first released a demo in 2014 which I was really fond of. Since then, the band has released a single (which does not appear on this record), and they were eventually picked up by Infernö Records who put out this debut full-length.
From the get-go of this record, Steel Inferno cements that they are quite a unique band. And it’s not because they have a female singer. But they retained the tone of the guitars they had on the demo which, at least to my ears is easy to recognize. And in these days that is quite rare. It is distinguishable, and the title-track is a prime example to showcase just that. Throughout the record you’ll be presented with plenty of speed metal but also some more mid-paced stuff. And that’s where the production becomes interesting to talk about. They’ve really built upon the base they set with their demo, and the instruments sound better than ever. The guitars have that delightful crisp tone that sounds great for the speed metal moments but also the slower parts, and together with the bass it retains an incredibly heavy feel from start until finish. If we take hold of the title-track once more it’s also worth noting the solos and the sound they’ve got, it sounds like they have come straight from the 80s. The drums are also sounding great with a primal punch to everything and not just the snare and bass drums. However, one thing they unfortunately did not keep from the demo was the mix. Vocalist Karen is too low in the mix so from time to time she is almost drowned out, and that is a shame because her voice was so incredibly powerful on the demo. The first thing that came to my mind when I heard that demo was that she reminded me of Nicole Lee from Znöwhite.
When you go from a short release, like a demo or an EP, to a full-length you also have to bring the goods, and Steel Inferno does that for the most part on “Aesthetics of Decay”. The first half of the album is without a doubt the strongest, but a track like The Civil Serpent feels a bit odd due to Karen taking the back seat and guitarist, Lars providing lead vocals. The track itself is more thrash than anything, and it is actually a good composition. But the vocals drags the song down as they could’ve appeared on any generic thrash revival record with a shouting vocalist. I definitely think Karen should’ve provided vocals for it because even though it is one of the faster tracks, the next track on the record, Merciful Slayer, shows that she is more than able for such tracks with her at times ferocious style. The track just mentioned is a re-recording from the demo and it fits in well but I would’ve liked to see one or two more tracks from the demo. “Aesthetics of Decay” will be the first introduction to Steel Inferno for many and therefore I think it’s a shame, and a missed opportunity that a track like Red Sabbath was not included on this release. I can also understand why a band wouldn’t want to re-record a lot of demo tracks and instead bring more new material to the table. However, I don’t feel like the last couple of tracks on “Aesthetics of Decay” holds up as well as some of the demo tracks and the “Arcade Warrior” single. With that being said, there is still plenty of good stuff to pick from this debut album like Aesthetics of Decay, the Judas Priest-esque Defender of the Old Way. Infernal Steel Brigade with its catchy chanting of the title and the marvellous solo. Merciful Slayer which is still a great and powerful track. Dismantling Fixed Positions which is well composed throughout, especially with the solo section and the build-up towards the chorus at the end.
Steel Inferno are defenders of the faith, or defenders of the old way if you will. But you’re not offered a replica of bands like Acid and Znöwhite and other female fronted bands from the times of yore. Instead you get a band that clearly inspired by the old school and they take those influences and combine it with their own sound. And if you are into speed metal/heavy metal in general, I would highly recommend that you check out this record. Whilst you might not think Steel Inferno is groundbreaking, it is so refreshing to hear a band that stands out with its own identity. “Aesthetics of Decay” is a really solid album with some excellent compositions, although towards the end it loses its momentum. The production is really good but the mix is a definite blow to the songs and it makes them lack that certain punch which was on the demo. Steel Inferno definitely seems to be onto something great and I am looking forward to their magnum opus.