Air Raid - Fatal Encounter: Is It Worth 37 Minutes of Your Life?
Updated: Jul 2
Air Raid, the Swedish NWOTHM act not-so-subtly named for their ability to, y'know, wail, is back with a brand new full-length creation: Fatal Encounter. These fellas are easily one of the most popular bands of the new traditional heavy metal world, with several of their past albums regarded highly by fans, myself included. Air Raid is currently weighing in at a whopping 34,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, which is massive compared to 99 percent of similar acts. (But still a slender 1/153th of Creed's rabid fanbase, keep in mind...it's a long way to the top.)
Kicking off what I'm sure will be a long-running and important tradition here on SUBTERRANEAN STEEL, I want to flip this baby over and give it a full three-point inspection using the arbitrary analysis of Songwriting, Musicianship, and some good ol' Production. Once we've done that, I'm sure we can clearly and definitively reach a conclusion about whether or not Fatal Encounter is worth 37 minutes of your life.
Alright, basics first: the songwriting section seeks to answer the eternal question: are these songs any damn good? Well, they certainly don't suck, but do they reach the same lofty pinnacle established by the band with past efforts Night of the Axe, Point of Impact, and 2017's near-perfect Across the Line?
To dive into those questions, I'd like to do something that I'd encourage you to do on your first playthrough of Fatal Encounter, which is start on the fourth track, "See the Light."
The four-song sequence beginning with "See the Light" and ending with "One by One" (I'm not counting "Sinfonia" here for reasons that will be obvious when you hear it) is fucking fantastic. Awesome old school heavy/power metal. As good as nearly anything Air Raid has done. "See the Light" would be the perfect album opener, as it brings great energy, compelling riffs, and engaging vocal hooks to the table for an instantly endearing track.
I'm also surprisingly fond of the downtempo, near-ballad approach of "Let the Kingdom Burn" which gives frontman Fredrik Werner room to really work his magic and melt my metal heart in the process. It's oddly the most unique and memorable track on here for me. "One by One" is the speediest piece on the album with a touch of old school European power metal, and it totally slays. If these songs opened the album, I think it's safe to say that Air Raid fanboys everywhere, all five of us, would rejoice.
But remember how we skipped three songs back at the beginning? Well, pull up a chair, my friend, we need to have a chat.
The first two tracks, "Thunderblood" and "Lionheart," will take you on a ride into the uncanny valley of traditional metal. They're so close to being cool songs, if I was only half paying attention I wouldn't doubt them for a second. But on closer observation they're clearly comprised of the discarded flesh of greater heavy metal songs, stitched together with chorus sections that elicit the most half-hearted fist pumps I've put up in weeks.
The good news here is that if you're reading this, you're probably not super picky about this stuff. You may very well eat food directly out of cans because it's still very much food and filling, two crucial elements involved in the eating process.
I'm guessing you're like me (I don't know, maybe not, I'm just throwing that out there), and you're here for the oldest school heavy metal. In that case, let's not complain too much about these first two songs. They're solid, they're friendly, I've heard them before from other bands and they were good then and I'm happy to get my trusty can opener and spoon out for them again here.
"In Solitude" won't be spared some whining from me however, because it's totally a cry-into-my-bowl-of-soggy-Corn-Flakes kind of song, and I'm all out of Corn Flakes. As the lyrics inform us, "In solitude, I'll survive this breakup with you. In solitude, and carry on through." Okay, okay. No more please, let's move on.
Here, I'm looking to evaluate the group's technical skill and performances, and I think it's enough to say that Air Raid kicks ass. Alright? I don't know what else you want from me on this. Love these dudes' riffs and especially their guitar solos, the latter of which really comprise the biggest highlights of Fatal Encounter for me. All the instruments are tight and clean and clearly played by guys who have practiced playing these types of instruments. Also, this is the second album with this singer and he seems like a solid dude with a solid voice. So no complaints about musicianship, many thumbs up, let's move on.
If you set a bullseye target off in the distance and labeled it "modern metal production that feels old school but actually kinda isn't," this album would strike the center of that shit and blow a hole out the back. Just like the giant airbrushed guitar with gun turrets mounted on it on the album cover that's blasting a non-specific object all the way to hell. Because fuck yeah. This is pure NWOTHM goodness here. Similar to musicianship, I honestly don't have anything else to say about the audio production. Plus, this review is already way too long.
Conclusion About Air Raid's Fatal Encounter
Okay, if you've skipped ahead to the conclusion like I always do with reviews then you've done a smart thing and used your time economically. And that's why you're reading this article in the first place, right? Which leads into the part where I tell you whether Air Raid's Fatal Encounter is truly worth 37 minutes of your life.
First, let's briefly summarize my thoughts about this album, "Me like trad, Air Raid play it good." So I'd say absolutely, definitely yeah, probably worth it. I mean, what do you want in your music? Do you like traditional heavy/power metal? Then I can think of a million worse ways to spend that 37 minutes. This is NWOTHM that will warm your bones with feel-good vibes across its full tracklist. Except "In Solitude," skip that one. No seriously. But everything else is at least respectably well made in the same polished and accessible style the band is known for.
I'd say this is easily worth 37 – no wait, get "In Solitude" out of there and maybe also the okay-but-not-really-a-full-song "Sinfonia," so...math...32 minutes of your life.
In all seriousness, I love Air Raid. They're one of my favorites. I even feel they're one of the 12 Must-Hear Bands from the New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal.
So that's it. My first review on this new blog wrapped up and written like a true sit-on-my-ass-all day-and-do-nothing BOSS. Tell me what you think of Fatal Encounter and tell me what a putz I am for not even mentioning the cover of Make-Up's "Pegasus Fantasy" in the comments below. That's right.
I mean, it's impressive to hear a Swedish dude sing in Japanese, right? Right?
Also subscribe so we can do this all again soon when I tell you the random stuff I think about Screamer's Kingmaker. Or maybe Hellripper's Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags. I like to live spontaneously, y'know, and by spontaneously I mean lazily. I'm honestly just making this shit up as I go.
I listen to an unhealthy amount of this music and spam people with my playlists . Here's my NWOTHM one.
LIKE IT. LISTEN TO IT.