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When people talk about Tim "The Ripper" Owens and his career it's usually all about his somewhat short stints in Judas Priest and Iced Earth, or perhaps even about his newer formed band Beyond Fear. But do you ever really see anyone mention Winters Bane? Probably not too often and that's a bit disappointing, because right of the bat Owens was doing more than just an impressive job performing powerful vocals at the mic.
For what Winters Bane were going for they were probably formed a bit too late, which is perhaps why this release (or the band for that matter) doesn't get a lot of attention. This is pretty simplistic stuff, straight up poundingly heavy traditional metal in the vein of Painkiller, Sanctuary's two albums come to mind at times too. The production suits the style very well, everything is pretty damn heavy and the drums are quite a force on their own. Guitars are very thick and actually comparable to some of today's modern bands (which may or may not be your thing). The mix is however sometimes a bit inconsistent, on some tracks Owens might sound like he's magically a street behind the band, some tracks don't sound as good as others, etc, the usual issues some albums have. Overall though it's not much of an issue.
As stated above this is pretty basic heavy metal having its ups and downs. Owens as usual sticks to a lot of higher notes and he probably shrieks on here more than you've ever heard him before. There's definitely a dark atmosphere to some of the tracks and you can tell they wanted to go for something a bit "epic" at times. Though some may enjoy it for being a bit more lax than say, Iced Earth's Night of the Stormrider that released a year before this. It works pretty well at some parts like during the middle segments of Night Shade, with perfect vocal delivery and swift harmonies. Which brings me to another high point here, the dual harmonies and some of the guitar melodies are downright cool. The solo's seem to be a hit or miss though, some stick and some don't. The downside is that the album seems a bit lopsided, as you progress through the album it tends to feel like the songs themselves do also. So you may have to give it a few tracks before the quality hits, though maybe it's just the slight repetition with some of the tracks that causes this. In the end there's a lot to offer here for fans with a variety of tastes, old school power metal fans may enjoy it, modern metal fans, traditional enthusiasts, and especially those who enjoy everything Tim Owens. Definitely recommended. This is what Beyond Fear should sound like!