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Another storm to kick up the wintry dust. - 83%

hells_unicorn, August 3rd, 2011

It’s difficult to find decent power metal on the western side of the Atlantic, aside from the old guard of the USPM scene that have traded in their classic sound for a modern, heavier one. But there’s always the occasional diamond in the rough (Kamelot comes to mind) that bucks the trend, and one that takes most of its cues from the European school as observed in Germany and Finland. The band in question is the Montreal based Icewind, a fold that has had just about every setback imaginable in their years long quest to break into the field formerly dominated by the likes of Sonata Arctica and Gamma Ray.

The band’s formative years coincide with the older era of the early 2000s, before many of the various AOR influenced albums began cropping up, and this was fully reflected in their very auspicious yet largely unknown debut “All Is Dust”. Their follow up album “Again Came The Storm” is all but a perfect stylistic reassertion of this older style where the songs are faster, the riffs more in line with the “Keepers” era Helloween style meshed with the woeful tendencies of the Finnish scene. The only real difference that is immediately apparent between this fine album and its predecessor is a less reverb steeped production and restrained keyboard mix, giving the sound a bit less of an arctic character.

The two most distinctive aspects of this album’s sound that also tie it in with the Finnish approach to the genre are the vocals and the interplay between the guitars and the keyboards. Gabriel Langelier is all but a complete dead ringer for both Tony Kakko and ex-Celesty microphone slayer Antti Railio, soaring with that same powerful and woeful tenor that brings to mind the tearful majesty of “Silence” and the epic brilliance of “Legacy Of Hate”. In similar fashion, the keyboards largely play off the traditional piano and synthesized string sounds typical to both aforementioned albums, though the guitar work is a bit busier in the riff department and the solos are not completely restrained to the neo-classical Malmsteen school.

The one area where Icewind may have carved out a particularly unique sound is in their presentation of the longer winded epic. The title song, for instance, presents a serene and folksy acoustic ballad landscape before launching into a riff set reminiscent of the wandering style with occasional guitar screams often heard out of early 80s Dio. “The Last March We’ll Meet Again” takes a similar half-ballad approach, but with a heavily symphonic character and a large sounding piano line before launching into a frenetic mixture of blurring drums and developing melodic guitar lines reminiscing of mid 80s Iron Maiden. But near equal attention should be given to this band’s straight up power metal anthems, particularly the hard edged speeding glory of “Blood Stained History” and “As Fools We Dance”.

The debut album is a slightly better find given its archaic production character, which is similar to that of Nightmare’s triumphant comeback album “Cosmovision”, but this album is also a good pickup for anyone who misses the days when Sonata Arctica wasn’t trying to encroach upon the territory of bubblegum jockeys in the Euro pop scene. The overall production is a bit different, but this album could be likened to the 3rd Celesty album “Mortal Mind Creation” in its mostly faster than light speed character and cold melodic character. Some argue that Scandinavia has the coldest and nastiest winters on earth, but it is a close match when considering what Canada is capable of when the city light glimmers and all that remains is the endless landscapes of the Yukon.