Bloody Times’ second album On a Mission is getting hyped for featuring former Iced Earth members John Greely on vocals and Raphael Saini on drums, but Manowar seems to be the project’s leading inspiration. Thankfully it’s more on the Sign of the Hammer side, as the album pursues a dramatic yet grounded take on heavy metal complete with driving riffs and gravelly vocal hooks. It’s only fitting that beloved guitarist Ross the Boss makes a guest appearance on the eight-minute opener “Alliance.”
With bassist Simon Pfundstein serving as the band’s mastermind, it isn’t too surprising that he dominates the record. He doesn’t quite reach Joey DeMaio levels of self-indulgence, but his overwhelming melodies and spry gallops would surely do his idol proud. Greely’s performance is also competent, mostly keeping to a lower-pitched bellow with none of the Night of the Stormrider-style shrieks that fans know him for. There are times where his voice could use more power, but it’s overall consistent.
On the flip side, the album would benefit from a stronger guitar presence. The numerous guitarists that guest on this release play well, but none of the performances offer a distinct identity and the production doesn’t exactly do much to highlight them. Manowar always had a similar predicament so it honestly wouldn’t surprise me if such a setup was intentional. Fortunately, songs like “Fort Sumter” and “Die in a Hole” have enough shredding for it to not be a deal-breaker.
The songwriting also covers varied ground though the track listing suffers from what I like to call For Those About to Rock syndrome. “Alliance” is easily the best track on here and makes for a great fist-pumping opener, but the band blows its load too early as subsequent tracks don’t quite capture its grandeur. The album would’ve benefitted if it had been the closer; “Fort Sumter” would make a hard-hitting opener and tracks like “Future Secret” and “Operation Focus” would provide sufficiently epic buildup. Manowar certainly understood this sequencing if songs like “Battle Hymns” and “March for Revenge” are anything to go by, so I find it surprising that Bloody Times didn’t opt for the same route.
While Bloody Times’ second album doesn’t come out unscathed, its classic metal mission is certainly accomplished. The extra musicians’ contributions make it an instant improvement over 2016’s The Fire of Immortality and as a longtime Iced Earth fan, it is cool to see John Greely back at it after his extended silence. Its somewhat flawed presentation will make it nonessential to anybody but the biggest diehards, but they’re sure to have a blast.
“Die in a Hole”