Intense
As Our Army Grows

If I was going through Iced Earth withdrawal, the latest record from Intense would be a welcome arrival. Unfortunately for Intense, I’ve been listening to an outstanding Iced Earth EP for the past two weeks, and I’m looking forward to a new record from the band later this year. So while I appreciate the quality of this effort in Iced Earth worship, I also kind of look at it as an attempt to remake Something Wicked This Way Comes, right down to the concept trilogy that ends the record.

That said, it’s not a bad record at all. Intense plays the kind of power metal I like. They stay away from overbearing keyboards, avoid the gang vocal harmonies and have a singer that doesn’t sound at all girlish. It’s a tougher form of power metal, and I appreciate that. Guitarists Dave Peak and Nick Palmer deliver some great galloping riffs and a good blend of atmospheric and technical lead work. Vocalist Sean Hetherington is firmly in the Matt Barlow camp, somewhere between a traditional hard rock singer and the more operatic vocals preferred by most power metal acts.

When the band kicks into Egyptian-sounding melodies, as on the opening of “Our Last Hope,” there’s some nice work. Unfortunately, those Egyptian moments only serve to reinforce the comparisons to Something Wicked …. The classical guitar work that opens “Insanity’s Call” is a nice touch, especially with a bluesy bend thrown in here and there among the twinkly stuff to add some flavor, and the smooth lead that opens “Fear is Not Enough” is one of the tastiest guitar bits on the record leading off one of the strongest songs the band offers here.

Finally, there’s the trilogy that closes the record, which, in tone, really reflects the Something Wicked trilogy. “Trojan Transmission” opens it with some nice, fast riffing in the vein of (need I say it?) Jon Schaffer. The second track, “Strange New World,” is a slower, longer and more thoughtful track with piano lines setting the mood, while “Long Live the New Flesh” closes the record with a big bang. The subject matter’s not the same, but it sure sounds familiar.

If you’re a big Iced Earth fan and are looking for something in that style to hold you over until fall, As Our Army Grows would be a good choice. There’s talent here, but it needs to find its own voice and evolve into more than an Iced Earth clone.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Fred Phillips
May 26th, 2007

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