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Sweden had its own power metal awakening that occurred parallel to the one that took place in Germany and Italy in the mid to late 90s, and like each of the other respective scenes they had a very characteristic sound. While the German one centered around either the melodic material of late 80s Helloween, the darker and more riff heavy works of Running Wild and Grave Digger, or some middle ground between the two, and the Italian scene was heavily focused on symphonic sounds with a looser Kiske era Helloween influence, the Swedish one was heavily focused on Yngwie Malmsteen and his 80s Rising Force releases. His influence as a soloist/shredder was also felt in the German and Italian bands as well, but many Swedish bands took a lot more to his style of songwriting and production practices as well.
Among these neo-Malmsteen offshoots were bands like Narnia, Winterlong, and the band that put this particular album together Stormwind. Much like the guitarists of the other two bands mentioned, neo-classical shredder Thomas Wolf has a very distinct style that derives itself heavily from Yngwie’s work, particularly the keyboard heavy and formulaic songwriting heard on most of “Trilogy”. When compared with Carljohan Grimmark and Thorbjorn Englund, he is the most restrained of the lot and the most focused on writing songs where his lead work is tailored to suit the song, taking the road that appeals to a bit more people beyond the guitar solo enthusiasts who eat up 8 minute long instrumental shred displays.
This band’s 2nd album “Stargate” is a bit unique among most neo-classical metal releases not only in that it came pretty early on, but also in that it is female fronted. Although this particular release and the debut that preceded it were one time only endeavors for the vocalists in question, the results are that of a fairly seasoned act that have gotten a hold of something that wouldn’t really be explored much afterwards. The character of the music is heavily geared towards a traditional approach to power metal, utilizing predictable harmonic progressions underneath fairly standard riffs, but the presence of a vocalist that sounds like a cross between Elisa Martin and Bonnie Tyler makes this sound quite interesting.
Much of the music on here is quite good, and by the standards of 1998 are fairly original, as most of the imitators of this style aside from Stratovarius, Concerto Moon and Narnia didn’t come out until a year or two later. There’s plenty of fun speed metal with songs like “Hit By The Sun” and “Time Won’t Tell”, both of which take a few lessons from Yngwie classics like “Fury” and “Faster Than The Speed Of Light”. There’s also a couple of nice instrumental guitar works in “Miramar” and “Sakura Opus” that draw upon a combination of European Baroque era music and far east Asian influences. But the real strength of this album is on the slow driving heavy songs like “Masquerade Of Love” and “Stargate” where the catchy and groovy work mixed with a heavy keyboard presence gives the song a sort of cosmic character, perhaps with a strong 80s take on said imagery, but a beautiful one too boot that plays off very nicely with Angelica Haggstrom’s wildly expressive vocalizations.
If you really enjoyed the early works by Concerto Moon and Narnia’s first two albums, this is cut from the same basic style. It’s fitting since Narnia and this band share a couple of members and that their Japanese counterparts came about around the same time and there is a strong Swedish influence on a lot of their various power metal bands as well. It’s got a few Rainbow and Uli Jon Roth influences here and there as well, but largely this is about as light, as flowery, and as 80s sounding as power metal can get. But as someone who loves this sort of music and am proud to proclaim myself as a member of anti-Kurt Cobain movement of early to mid 90s metal converts, I can’t bring myself to complain.