"Fifth Son of Winterdoom" is too much and too lacking. It's not a horrible experience by any stretch of the imagination, as the gentlemen of Iron Mask are completely capable of creating adequate material, yet the album is poorly fragmented and inconsistent. The group's style reminds me more of Dark Moor and At Vance than, say, Rhapsody of Fire or Gamma Ray, which is perfectly fine as I'm fond of those bands. "Fifth Son of Winterdoom," however, has a small number of fantastic tunes while the remaining songs take up a bunch of space and refuse to do anything. At times Iron Mask burns like a supernova, yet frequently they prove to rely on savagely redundant and vapid songs for reasons I'm not quite sure of. In the end, this is pretty run-of-the-mill.
It's not much of a "bipolar" record, meaning there isn't some huge identity crisis going on in which Iron Mask is musically smearing its sh*t on the wall and calling it "evolution." Most of "Fifth Son of Winterdoom" is safe and predictable neoclassical power metal branching out to the realm of hard rock, and it's about as memorable as it sounds. This amalgamation I find is often a toss-up: it has its moments but it's an oversaturated lot. Some happen to do it very well. Iron Mask? Based on this, not so much. These tracks are lazy little critters that have modern tendencies and the dull instrumentation that typically follows. "Only One Commandment" lacks the zest to make it anything more than bearable, "Seven Samurai" is inadequately written, "Rock Religion" is about as good as a song titled "Rock Religion" can be, and something clichι and douchey like "Angel Eyes, Demon Soul" made me think that none of the band members have ever touched a boob.
When "Fifth Son of Winterdoom" applies a stronger power/heavy metal vibe, Iron Mask still does little of worth. They specifically use Iron Maiden riffs inspired by "Fear of the Dark" (that's not a good thing) for SEVEN MINUTES on "Reconquista 1492," and the title track, which I'm assuming is about wandering around aimlessly in the snow, is about as fun as wandering around aimlessly in the snow. They merely recycle riffs and ideas used by superior groups, albeit without the dynamic charm that a band like, say, Portrait uses to express Mercyful Fate worship. It's sadly the humdrum songwriting that brings this down, as Mark Boals sounds fantastic as usual and the virtuosic shredding brightens up the murky skies to an extent.
Every now and then the gentlemen of Iron Mask churn out a real burner that's at least semi-decent. "Eagle of Fire" and "Run to Me" are Helloween-esque crusades worth mentioning, and "Like a Lion in a Cage" is like a shot of adrenaline. "The Picture of Dorian Gray," the album's eight-minute conclusion, absolutely slays. Stellar riffing, superb songwriting, powerful vocals, poignant lead work . . . pretty much everything that gives life to an epic. There's just one problem: decent songs are rare and filler is buy one, get one free. My roommate used to follow around women who'd show any degree of interest in him when he was "picking up chicks" at the bar, and that's pretty much how this works: find a chorus, chase it until it calls the cops. In the end, "Fifth Son of Winterdoom" moderately stinks.