When I first set out to write up a massive chronology of German thrash reviews, covering one of my favorite all time scenes in metal, I had determined that I would not incorporate demos unless they were part of an official compilation release, or added bonuses to studio or live albums. Not that demos aren't important, mind you, it's just that I wouldn't have the time to include them all. I've decided to make an exception in the case of Iron Angel's Back from Hell, because it's the final release the band would conjure before disappearing back into the dust of time, unable to fully rekindle the fires they intended with their 21st century revival.
The intention here was to assemble a new lineup with original members Dirk Schröder (vocals) and Mike Mattes (everything else) at the helm, and lay out some new studio material that would garner some excitement for a comeback. The band have sadly not followed in their 80s footsteps, and I found that the vocals were just not as charming. Dirk's mid-range is not wholly different, but his pipes are no longer so acidic as they once were on Hellish Crossfire or Winds of War, and they try to compensate with more gang shouts and a more street level, 'tough' vocal style ("Puppet on a String"). What's worse is when the riffs follow, like the meaty, simple groove/thrash of "Back from Hell", which has an awful Pantera-style breakdown that made me cringe. "Sanatorium" is even worse, starting with a big groove and bluesy guitar solo that really do not sound like what we want to hear from Iron Angel. "Unbreakable" has a pretty cool intro of synthesizers and samples, but then it too channels a similar groove hooked thrash metal with some Southern trendkill influence.
I think it's sad that the epic intro "The Awakening" is probably the best solitary track on this demo release, and then it all falls apart. Where I had hoped to hear a renewed aggression of blinding, vicious speed circa "The Metallian", "Hunter in Chains", or "Sinner 666", but times change, and for Iron Angel, they change to a mediocre mash up of 90s groove-inflected thrash ala Texans Pantera. I guess in the end, though its sad not to have a once promising band like this around spitting lightning and hell breath, if this is the direction they were to explore, then it's not such a terrible crime that they'd inevitably dissolve once more. But at least we can clutch their great 1985 debut to our bosoms and remember with fondness the fires they once lit under the asses of the firmament.
Verdict: Fail [3.25/10]