What do you do when you’re a singer and you discover that your voice sounds scarily alike a more well-known singer? Well, maybe start a tribute-band of sorts? Or you can do what Brazilian singer Raphael Mendes did – have some fun on YouTube. Mendes made a series of videoclips called ”What if Bruce Dickinson sang for ….” (insert band of choice) – yes, he’s a dead ringer for Dickinson. Well, at least his voice is. Those videos turned out to be voraciously popular and with that in mind, it was hardly a surprise that he was offered a record-deal pretty much right on the spot. Iron Maiden is as we all know a massive band and I guess the label – Frontiers in this case – found the selling possibilities enormous here.
Icon Of Sin is built around Mendes – or maybe Mendes’ voice? – and the musicians were handpicked for the task which makes this thing feel more like a project than an actual band. For song-writing duties, Sergio Mazul (Semblant) and Marcelo Gelbcke (Landfall) was brought in to help Mendes out in that department, neither of the two dwelling in the classic Metal field that this band is supposed to be in. The musicians involved are Caio Vidal on bass, Sol Perez and Mateus Cantaleãno on guitars and CJ Dubiella on drums. If the album will be a full-on Maiden clone or just a regular Metal record remains to be seen (heard).
The second single, title-track and the song that gave the band its name (or if it was the other way around) opens the record. The opening riff is the brother of Whitesnake’s ”Still Of The Night” only to continue somewhat similar to Pretty Maids’ ”Future World”. The verses goes into a down-beat and held-back mode but as the tune goes along it takes on a faster pace, punchy and direct. It’s an edgy metal-stomper with a bit of a Judas Priest vibe included. It’s fat, heavy and direct. A good tune. Faster tracked and more aggressive, the classic Metal sounding ”Road Rage” goes right for the jaw, very in-your-face and ballsy. The tune actually sniffs around Helloween’s or Primal Fear’s corner albeit not even close to the catchiness of those bands. An ok tune but not that special.
The leading single ”Shadow Dancer” is an uptempo Hard Rock meets Metal number taken right out of Steve Harris pocket – there’s lots of Iron Maiden here both when it comes to melodies and song-structure. But not only Maiden as I can spot both pieces of Priest and Saxon here. It’s an edgy and straight forward song with a catchy enough refrain. Good one. Bringing on some sleazy riffing and a rhythmic beat, ”Unholy Battleground” goes on punchy and heavy with a bit of a Hammerfall touch as well. It’s a wall-of-guitars kind of song and while that might as fat as it gets, the tune is quite bland and not much of it sticks around.
Latest single ”Nightbreed” is probably the album’s finest moment. It comes off as something that would have fitted on Priest’s latest album Firepower. It’s heavy, punchy and aggressive but with hooks everywhere making every melody memorable and the smart little pop-hook in the chorus is splendid, making the tune a damn catchy one. More of this, please. The fast, hard and aggressive classic metal-number ”Virtual Empire” is the opposite of its predecessor. Going off like a hard kick in the groin, it’s a faster laden and puncher but it’s also literal where every metal-cliché comes alive. The jazzy bass-solo is pretty cool, though.
”Pandemic Euphoria” might hold a riff that’s all Judas Priest but when it comes to melody and song-structure, this tune is a total latter day Iron Maiden clone. That being said, this uptempo and straight forward Metal tune punches away and fires on all cylinders and the effective chorus is catchy as hell in all it’s Iron Maiden-isms and I quite like the track. More Maiden-cloning shows up in the drum-beat and sparse bass-line in the verses of the 8-minute epic ”Clouds Over Gotham” but that’s not all. The dark atmospheres, the twin leads, the riffs and the vocal-melody makes this number come across like an unreleased Maiden-track. With Mendes’ voice, it makes it even more obvious. That said, it’s actually not a bad song but the cloning here makes it sound too calculated and while listening, all I can think of is Iron Maiden.
Riff-happy and with horns out, ”Arcade Generation” is a no-bull, stone-hard Hard Rock melter, very heavy and energetic. It’s a raw end gritty rocker but unfortunately it’s also forgettable and goes nowhere. ”Hagakure” is a short instrumental Japanese folk-influenced interlude which leads us into ”The Last Samurai”, a fast and heavy rocker with chugging guitars and a ballsy and hard-hitting rhythm-section where Judas Priest meets Helloween. There are some big vocals all over the track and the chorus even brings on a groove which is a nice contrast. Why no other Japanese details shows up in the tune is surprising – and a bit of a pity as such a thing could have lifted this otherwise standard Power Metal number.
”The Howling” takes the band on a Power Metal trip where Helloween seems to be the inspiration. There’s some Iron Maiden-like twin-leads involved here as well and the tune is heavy and gritty but with some pretty catchy vocal-melodies on top. It’s an ok tune but again on the forgettable side and the howls are more annoying than anything else. The album closes with ”Survival Instinct”, a song that’s full-on 80’s Maiden – licks, riffs, structure, phrasings and melodies. It’s a heavy, dark and ballsy number but it’s a clone – fortunately it’s a good clone as there’s hooks and catchiness in both verses and chorus.
To sum this up – the musicianship and Mendes’ voice are really strong but the song-writing mostly isn’t. Also, no matter if were talking riffs or melodies, everything here is recycled from other bands and since Mendes’ really is a dead ringer for Bruce Dickinson, this project really lacks identity. Another thing is that Iron Maiden seems to be the template for most of the stuff here and the stuff that isn’t feels more like Mendes’ YouTube videos of ”what if Bruce Dickinson sang in…”. I know it’s not Mendes’ fault that he sounds so much like Dickinson but since he does, the best thing would be to erase as much of the Maiden-influences as possible and create a sound of their own on the next record. This is not a crap record but it falls kinda flat.