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Less direct and more technical. - 70%

Empyreal, April 19th, 2011

Finland’s Ultimatium really blew me away a few years back with Hwainoo, which was as fine an album as anything Stratovarius, Sonata Arctica or Helloween has put out lately, if not better. This is their new demo Hold Your Ground, and while it’s good, I don’t think this little demo is quite up to the cut.

For one thing, this new material just isn’t as direct. One of the main strengths of Hwainoo was the upbeat, energetic punch the album had, which is given the shelf here in favor of more dense, slightly proggy arrangements that are admittedly a little boring after a while of listening to them. Singer Tomi Viitola doesn’t use his upper range as much, sticking mostly to a stodgy midrange, and the vocal melodies he’s singing are not as powerful as those on Hwainoo. The band appears to have focused more on crafting technically advanced compositions rather than writing the basic, hooky tunes that made their previous album such a winner, and as such, the songs here do not grab me like the ones on the album did.

This is still pretty well done, and there’s potential for the band to really expand on this sound and make it work, but this demo just comes off as a little half baked. I’ll wait until I hear a full album to really pass any judgment, though.

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