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Ultimatium is a young band from the land of the thousand lakes and they play melodic power metal in the vein of early Stratovarius. I know what you’re thinking: “oh no! another shitty clone” ;but that’s not the case whit these young Finns. They play a very melodic style of metal with prominent keyboards and a soaring singer. The songs are well structured and have a lot of tempo changes to entertain the listener. These guys are capable to write the catchiest songs in the whole planet. Every one of them is an instant classic. It reminded me the debut of Twilightning in terms of how easy is to remember each song after listening to them a couple of times.
The instruments are well balanced in the mix and the singer sounds a lot like Mr. Kotipelto as his main influence, but this guy is way more passionate and down to earth than him. His singing abilities are top notch and I hear influences of Michael Kiske in his style. Although they borrow a lot from Stratovarius they are doing it strictly to the “Visions” era when their older country mates used to play faster and better.
The opener “Follow Me” is very similar to “Hunting High and Low” from Tolkki and company but the resemblances tend to fade away through the disc in its full length. The best track has to be the 9th and last track “Fly High, Rise To The Sky” with its prog influences and multiple tempo changes. This song is the longest of the disc stopping at the 9:29 minutes mark.
The tempos of the songs go from ultra fast songs like the 5th track “In Winter Nights”, with its pounding drums, fast keyboards and flashy solos performed by skilled musicians, to the ballads. Other highlights of this record are the 2nd track “New Dawn” with its cool keyboard intro, and the better of the two ballads that appear in the disc, track number 6 “In My Dreams” with its intense melodic perfection.
In conclusion, this record is very recommended to the power metal fans in general and the fans of the finnish melodic metal aces Stratovarius, Sonata Arctica and Twilightning. If you’re not into keyboards this may be a turn off, and another good comparison if you’re not interested yet would be the german metallers of Freedom Call but with less cheese and flowers.
Amidst the string of less than stellar Stratovarius releases between 2000 up until today, the least of which being the recent disaster which bore the band’s name, I was in search of something to fill the void. Among the crowd of bands influenced by Stratovarius are a sizable collection of newer Finnish power metal outfits, ranging from the fantasy album quasi-Nightwish influenced Dreamtale, the philosophically introspective and melancholy Sonata Arctica, and some lesser known acts such as Ultimatium who are the closest to the Stratovarius sound.
“New Dawn” is essentially 2nd tier power metal with a fair amount of potential, mostly drawing upon the keyboards as the principle melodic instrument, while the guitar and other instruments tend to fuse together into a solid backdrop, although the guitar does enjoy a fair amount of solo time. What results is something that is quite similar to Stratovarius’ 2nd LP known as “Twilight Time” both in terms of production and songwriting.
JT Partanen, who subsequently left the band to continue his solo project Two-horn Unicorn, sounds a good deal like Timo Kotipelto, although his range is not nearly as large. Likewise the guitar sound Harri Niskanen puts on display here is quite similar to the current guitar tone employed by Timo Tolkki, although his soloing style doesn’t involve as much shredding and thematically reminds a bit of the short melodic ideas Emppu of Nightwish often utilizes.
Among the highlights on this album is the listener friendly mid-tempo rocker “Follow Me”, which sounds a good deal like more recent Stratovarius singles such as “Hunting High and Low” and “Eagleheart”, although with some interesting guitar tracking tricks during the solo. “Dysfunctional” is a brief instrumental where the guitar takes prominence and the overall feel is that of a dance, not all that dissimilar from “Moondance” off Nightwish’s Oceanborn. “Through Winterlands” and the 9 minute plus closing epic “Fly High, Rise to the Sky” both have solid choruses and plenty of memorable keyboard themes.
The principle flaw in this album, besides being a bit derivative, is that some of the songs run together a bit, owing mostly to a lot of similar chord progressions being re-used with slightly different arrangements of differences in tempo to compensate. “Follow Me” is the easiest to identity, with “Dysfunctional” a close second place, but much of the other stuff sees similar ideas not getting fully developed. However, every song is charming and will not necessarily call for regular use of the skip button.
Fans of Stratovarius who are not happy with the current direction of the band, as well as Finnish power metal fans with extra money to burn are advised to check these guys out. I am anxiously looking forward to the next release as it will have the singer who gave us the amazing Dreamtale classic “Ocean’s Heart” Tomi Villtola doing the vocals, which will give principle songwriter and keyboardist Matti Pulkkinen a lot more latitude in writing the vocal melodies to the next opus.
Later submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on August 1, 2008.