Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2019
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

Their best album. - 100%

greywanderer7, July 7th, 2012

I've kind of outgrown power metal. I don't know, maybe it's because it tries so damn hard to be epic and bombastic and ends up as ridiculous, or because it's too uplifting and light-hearted when compared to, well, pretty much the rest of metal subgenres, or because it's very formulaic, and most of it's experiments on progression end up as pretentious and overblown (and I'm not referring to the follow-ups of this album, mind you). For some strange reason, this album, and this band, stuck with me.

Why? If they're like, one of the cheesiest, poppiest bands in the genre. Well, there's more than meets the eye (or the ear) with them, because they really found themselves in here. On Winterheart's Guild they were already developing a style of their own, but this is their coming-of-age, of sorts. Gone is the Stratovarius-on-steroids formula of Ecliptica (why the hell most people consider that piece of immature, unoriginal record to be their best, or their 'most listenable' is beyond me), and they've instead taken that influences, modified them, and thus making them more subtle. The excessively high-pitched vocals of Tony Kakko are not as prominent and over-the-top, and instead they tend to sound lower and a bit raspy, being much more bitter and grittier than before. The guitars are relatively heavier, and they have a stronger presence, with more memorable riffs, and the rhythmic section does their job well, it's not exceptional, but it's not mediocre either.

Despite being a huge presence of keyboards in this record (as usual with this band), they are more subtle, with the plastic, annoying tone of yore being replaced with a Hammond-esque sound which gives them a more proggy vibe. Besides, they are used to create this cold, wintery atmosphere which seems like the perfect scenery for the dark fairytales portrayed by the lyrics. They're no longer the usual happy, ridiculous power metal lyrics *coughHelloweencough* but portray quite somber themes, like in Don't Say a Word, where some guy rapes and stabs his ex-girlfriend, who he's been stalking for a long time, Wlidfire, when a man burns the town he comes from in revenge for years of abuse towards him, or White Pearl, Black Oceans, where a lighthouse keeper accidentally causes the death of the crew of a ship, and, eventually, guilt leads him to kill himself. Though, besides of this dark themes, Kakko still writes his typical broken-hearted, romantic lyrics, and sure, they're sappy, but the man makes them work.

So, an overall heavier sound can be evidenced in almost the entirety of the album, with the songs being angrier and more intense than before, fast songs and mid-tempos alike. Exceptions are Shamandalie, the only full-on ballad on the entire record, My Selene, a fast ballad of sorts, and the 'least good' song in here, keeping the speed but with a more romantic theme, and Reckoning Day, Reckoning Night, a quite melancholic, haunting piano piece.

Those subtle changes in the music make up for a more remarkable listening experience, accentuated by another feature that modified (and, eventually, took over the sound of the band in their divisive next release): progressive metal influences. Besides the aforementioned Hammond-esque keyboards, the song structures are more elaborated and complex, with the most notable examples of this being The Boy Who Wanted to Be a Real Puppet or White Pearl, Black Oceans.

Even though all the songs are enjoyable in their own, standouts include the soaring Ain't Your Fairytale, the angst-ridden Don't Say a Word, the epic, somber 8-minute White Pearl, Black Oceans, and Wildfire, quite simply the fastest, heaviest song they've ever done, and hell, who am I kidding, my favorite of their entire discography.

Recommended for fans of power metal, or why not, metal in general, since it turns out to be a grower, and surprisingly appealing to some people who are into more extreme stuff. Definitely underrated.