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Screaming back from the northern tundra. - 91%

hells_unicorn, June 21st, 2016
Written based on this version: 2015, Digital, Underground Symphony

After their exodus from Mastervox Records and some turbulence in their rhythm section lineup, the future of Finland's best kept power metal secret seemed uncertain. Studio silence probably didn't help matters a whole lot (apart from a decent independent demo in 2011), but Ultimatium has come raging back from the wintry mountains as if they'd never left with an impressive beast of an LP in Vis Vires Infinitus that re-establishes the majesty that was accomplished years ago on Hwainoo, though this time the long-lost cousin of the Ghost Rider and his horse-drawn snow sleigh have gone into early retirement. All of the key assets that makes this band a typically styled Finnish power metal outfit that puts out atypically good material are still in place, not the least of which being their powerhouse of a front man Tomi Viiltola, whom could be styled the Geoff Tate of said power metal scene, and the results are nothing short of spellbinding.

At first glance, this album seems like it would be of more of a coasting, mid-paced variety given the way that the pacing works out. "C'est la vie", one of the longer and more mid-paced songs, kicks things off on more of a melodic yet nuanced note. It's actually fairly fast by straight up heavy metal standards, but compared to the Dreamtale and Burning Point tendencies that this band tends to work in, it's a bit restrained and leans a bit more on melody and mellow keyboard layers compared to what normal constitutes fast in this style. The next song, "I Remember" also spends a bit more time grooving at mid-tempo and places the focus primarily on Tomi, who has not lost a single once of power in the past four years. It's not until what deceptively begins in ballad territory in "Departure" that things really start to cook in that glorious fashion that typified "Fight Against The Time" and some of the other triumphant parts of Hwainoo.

While this album does a fantastic job all around, the highlights are found where things are faster and the instruments are markedly busier, which typifies most of the rest of this album. Obvious picks for anyone who thinks this style works best when it is closest to that Helloween-pioneered mixture of speed and infectious hooks are "Who Stole My Winter?" and the slightly more keyboard driven yet still aggressive album closer "Truth Of The Universe", though "New Horizons", "Curtain Of Darkness" and "Victory Calls" are not far behind. These are also the points where keyboardist/songwriter Matti Pulkkinen and guitarist Harri Niskanen show their chops, and while they don't quite go as berserk as some of the other Finnish outfits out there with the whole Johanssen vs. Malmsteen shtick, what they churn out proves to be quite memorable. The drum work is also particularly impressive, as newcomer Matti Auerkallio (who actually has a longer list of active and former bands under his belt) doesn't just sit on a straight double kick beat and mixes in some intricate handwork that gives things a little bit more of a progressive tilt.

That old cliche of good things coming to those who wait has proven true yet again wherein this band is concerned, though one would hope that the next album doesn't take another seven years to come to fruition. But as the band now finds themselves joined to Underground Symphony, a far more prolific and higher visibility label than Mastervox, things may happen a bit quicker now. This will probably strike most first-time listeners who are familiar with Finland's power metal scene as being one of those "familiar, but different" kind of albums, mostly because despite the relatively short song lengths and familiar production practices, things are not organized in as strictly symmetrical a fashion. It's not quite enough to make this a progressive album, but by the same token, it wouldn't be much of a stretch to see a fan of early 90s Dream Theater liking an album like this. Hopefully this band will start enjoying a larger audience, because between this album and the last one, they definitely deserve it.