Ultimatium - Hwainoo 3.5/5
1. Fight the time
3. Set the sails
6. On the edge
7. Play the game
8. Whispers (Of the world)
Still a relatively new sighting on the Finnish power metal landscape, Ultimatium have finally released their 2nd CD, 4 years after debuting with 'New dawn'. Featuring some experienced players from respected – if not exactly well-known – bands in their ranks, it won't come as any great surprise that they play melodic power metal that is laced with complex keyboard arrangements, lightning-quick solos and soaring vocals.
Though generally pretty unoriginal, 'Hwainoo' does feature some more progressive arrangements than one might expect, and a couple of narrow misses aside, the songs are uniformly strong enough that their derivative nature does not hamper their likeability.
"Fight the time" is the expected and obligatory opening barnstormer, mostly reminiscent of Finnish grandmasters Stratovarius, though with keyboards more reminiscent of Freedom Call during the rampant chorus. The belting Michael Kiske-esque vocals that former Dreamtale singer Tomi Viiltola employs in the chorus are a contributing factor to the quality of the song and the CD as a whole – though a touch more gravelly on the verses, his voice tends to burst into life when the songs crescendo and his input to the band is an invaluable one.
In contrast to his melodic approach, a couple of black metal vocalists help out with some screams (but curiously no actual singing) during "On the edge", a varied and much grander effort that shows a more ambitious side that Ultimatium are beginning to display, featuring several distinct and atmospheric keyboard sections from founding member Matti Pulkkinen.
"Storms" is the big ballad of the CD, and unfortunately doesn't quite work, feeling a little forced and tepid. Along with the simply uninspiring "Descent", it is a weak point in the tracklist (crucially, they follow one another right on the center point) and causes the CD to deflate a little as whole. This minor collapse in an otherwise rock-solid set of songs prevent 'Hwainoo' from breaking Ultimatium into the top tier, but it should still make for a worthwhile addition to a melodic power metal fan's collection.
With Stratovarius in a state of suspended animation (and Revolution Renaissance not exactly setting the heather alight in their stead) and Sonata Arctica tooling about in pseudo-progressive boredom, there is an opening for a big melodic power metal band in their style. Ultimatium may not yet be at the level of their predecessors, but they have the potential to give it a damn good shot. It matters not a jot that the style is nothing new – if the big guns aren't interested in carrying on their own good work someone else may as well have a go at holding the torch. Best of luck to them.
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