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Wingdom MK II - 93%

Dragonchaser, November 23rd, 2007

Ever since his rather unexpected departure from Sonata Arctica, I've always kept a close eye on synth-master Mikko Harkin, and through his work with Stratovarius vocalist Kotipelto and his fabulous prog-power metal outfit Wingdom, I have been privy to some of the most emotional, heartfelt compositions available to the genre, so I find it a great pleasure to sit down and examine his latest stroke of melodic genius: the debut of his new project, Mehida.

Why he left Wingdom is rather unclear, as what we have on display here is quite simply a follow up to 2005's "Reality" by the aforementioned band, only unlike that album, "Blood & Water" isn't quite as engaging or as breathtaking. Taking the same disjointed formula of sharp, jumpy, progressive riffing, light, crystalline keys, groovy double kicks and uplifting choruses, "Blood & Water" is everything a fan would want in a follow up, only this time, Mehida seem to make greater use of choral backing vocals and have a larger diversity when it comes to tempo, with a number of the tracks venturing into faster territory than on Wingdom's debut. Harkin's pious religious beliefs are still at the heart of the lyrical subject matter, providing the tight emotional connection as before, yet "Blood & Water" is a little darker with heavier segments and an altogether gloomier imagery.

Drafting in DivineFire guitarist/composer Jani Stefanovic to impart his musical knowledge as well as take care of all guitar duties gives the riffs a firm basis for Harkin to lay his keys upon, and the rhythm section of Jarno Raitio and Markus Niemispelto shocks and blocks with grippingly taut precision. But for all the intelligent time changes and catchy vocal lines, Mehida are hampered by their vocalist Thomas Vikstrom, who is no doubt a talented frontman who can certainly snap out the high notes, he simply doesn't attach himself to the lyrics as emotionally as Sami Asp, and that in turn loses "Blood &Water" a slight grain of integrity.

For those who would have killed for another Wingdom release with Harkin at the helm, look no further than "Stronghold" and the fabulously catchy "Guilty"; both tracks reek of his aforementioned expedition, without compromising Mehida's identity. "Unchanging" is a dashing storm of technical power metal, while the most unique track on offer is the fast, upended rocket ride "Dry Bones", giving rise to one of the best riffs on the whole album whilst also employing a vastly unexpected, melodic song structure.

As sad as I am that this is not under the Wingdom name, "Blood &Water" is still a fiercely intelligent album that all fans of modern prog-power metal must add to their collection, and despite the knowledge that Wingdom are currently penning an actual follow up, I'd put my money on Mehida delivering the goods in the future.

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