Airforce – “Strike Hard” (Pitch Black Records)
Battle Helm Rating
Brought together by no less than Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, who was good friends with Chop Pitman (guitars) and introduced him to former Maiden drummer Doug Sampson, Airforce was born in 1987 as another NWOBHM supergroup! However, with the musical landscape already changing, the band struggled to be signed and disbanded only 3 years later. But Airforce were never forgotten, not in the least by die hard Maiden fans who inspired the band to keep going under different line ups until “Judgement Day” was released in 2016, which was a retrospective look back at their career over many years. With the growth of true metal and a resurgence of original NWOBHM bands, it was only a matter of time before the name Airforce would be heard once again, and “Strike Hard” spares no expense in doing it in fine style, complete with guest appearances starting with Paul Di’ Anno (Iron Maiden) to former Airforce vocalist Ivan Giannini (Vision Divine) and lastly original Sensational Alex Harvey Band guitarist Zal Cleminson, who appears on the bonus track cover of ‘Faith Healer’! With Flávio Lino (Deadly Force) now handling the vocals, it’s pretty clear from his striking similarities in pitch and quasi – operatic style to Bruce Dickinson that the Iron Maiden touch is still very much evident, and especially so from their earlier years, which is what has made Airforce so appealing to Maiden fans over time. Even more clearer from the 11 tracks here is the authentic NWOBHM style, from Pitman’s classic guitar sound to the material itself that resonates the early 80s from start to finish! Opening with the aptly titled ‘Fight’ with its dogfighting background intro, Pitman’s guitar explodes the catchy riffs with plenty of reverb as Lino soars into the stratosphere over lines like ‘…fight it out…over freedom…’ in between power screams while original bassist Tony Hatton and the aforementioned Sampson stamp in their heavy rhythm on this NWOBHM classic no less. In a Maiden-esque gallop of ‘Don’t Look In Her Eyes’, Pitman’s epic power riffs grab you once more as Lino adds plenty of drama into his singing and screaming to give even the legendary Dickinson a run for his money on this gamely number that once again, resonates all the spirit and style of NWOBHM in fine form. Capping it all off is the brilliant ‘Finest Hour’, definitely a wingman for Maiden’s own ‘Aces High’, with its chugging energy, fiery riffs and Lino’s epic highs all leading up to the singalong chorus of ‘…finest hour…with fire…it’s a game…of do or die…’ made all the more potent by more hooks and melodies straight outta Maiden’s arsenal to complete this superb release, and long overdue (true) debut that would make Steve Harris proud!