On Fire

It seems to be a week for female-fronted bands for me. First the Missbehaviour compilation, then Arch Enemy, now Widow. Though I’m not familiar with their previous album, On Fire is the band’s second album, following up 2004’s Midnight Strikes. The band came together over their love of horror, and that love is evident just by looking at the titles of some of the tracks on the album, “An American Werewolf in Raleigh,” “Re-Animate Her,” “Sinderella” and “I’ll Bury You Alive.” Just looking at the names (and hearing the opening sample from “An American Werewolf in London”) you’d think this is a band heavily influenced by White Zombie. Not the case. Instead they’re heavily influenced by the traditional metal bands of the 1980s – Maiden, Priest, Crimson Glory, even a touch of King Diamond.

I was happy to hear that vocalist Lili (no last names available, apparently no one in this band has one) isn’t one of those opera-style female vocalists that usually pop up on a power metal album. Going back to the ’80s influences, she reminds me a bit of Doro Pesch without the accent. In fact, there’s quite a bit about this band that reminds me of Warlock, particularly songs like “The Preacher’s Daughter.”

More often, though, the band echoes Iron Maiden musically. The lead guitar harmonies are ripped right from the early Maiden trick book, and Lili even occasionally throws in some Bruce Dickinson-like ohohooh chants. The male vocals add a touch of modern sound to the mix, with one of the male singers (not sure if it’s Cristof or John E., who are both credited with vocals) punctuating the songs with a black metal-style rasp. The clean male vocals I could live without. They’re passable, but not very interesting.

As a guy that came up listening to those classic bands in the 1980s, there’s a big nostalgia factor here. You’ve got to bob your head to the galloping riffing in “Re-Animate Her,” even if the pun in the title makes you want to cringe. As is usually the case for me, I prefer the more upbeat songs. The ballady parts of the songs seem plain, and in the case of “Not Alone,” weaken what could be a solid song. There’s a nice heavier bit where the rasping male vocals dominate that’s quite strong, but it takes a minute and a half of plain-Jane ballad to get there, and they return to the ballad. I’d much rather hear them ripping out speedy riffs like the opening of “Dead End.”

The band offers up a surprise toward the end of the album with “Family Affair,” a burner that almost veers over into melodic death metal in the early going, but ends up playing an awful lot like 3 Inches of Blood on the chorus with the clean melodic female vocals and the snarling backing vocals. And why shouldn’t this sound a bit like 3 Inches of Blood? If you like one, you’ll probably like the other. It’s the same sort of 1980s-fueled metal with just a few nods to the modern sound. Great stuff for cranking the stereo up as high is it will go and pumping your fist in the air. Pass me my spiked wristband.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Fred Phillips
June 28th, 2005


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