Wintersbane - Redivivus 3.5/5

Reviewed: 6-16-06


1. Seal the light
2. Spark to flame
3. The world
4. Dead faith
5. Catching the sun
6. Remember to forget
7. Burning bridges
8. Waves of fury
9. Despise the lie

Ohio's Winters Bane will always be an answer to a heavy metal Trivial Pursuit question, as they are the band in which Tim Owens cut his teeth before he replaced Rob Halford as the vocalist of Judas Priest. It would be a shame if they were reduced to a historical footnote, however, because Winters Bane's 1993 debut CD, 'Heart of a killer', is a chilling, ambitious, expertly executed concept album that would make King Diamond proud. Unfortunately, that CD had the misfortune of being released at the apex of the grunge movement, so it never even registered a blip on the American metal seismograph. Shortly thereafter, Ripper was plucked away by Priest, effectively freezing Winters Bane in their tracks. A tepid follow-up, 'Girth', came out a few years later with guitarist/mainman Lou St. Paul also taking over vocal chores. However, 'Girth' was an ill-conceived, poorly sung attempt to join the Pantera bandwagon, and did not remain on my CD shelf for long. For years, I assumed that this was the last that we would hear from this once-promising outfit.

Surprise, surprise, 2006 has ushered in a brand-new Winters Bane studio album, 'Redivivus'. Once again, sole original member Lou St. Paul is at the helm, playing all guitars and bass, and undoubtedly spearheading the songwriting. Not content to hire local players, St. Paul commendably directed his gaze overseas and landed 2 minor European metal celebrities to collaborate with him, to-wit: Alexander Koch of Powergod fame on vocals, and drum-monster Mark Cross (Metalium, Helloween, Firewind) on the skins. The personnel pieces having thus fallen into place, my hopes were high when I slid 'Redivivus' into my CD changer.

The proceedings begin with a bang, as "Seal the light" explodes from the speakers to assault the listener's eardrums with frenzied lead guitar work, fast tempos, super-heavy riffs, chunky production and a stupendous chorus. Much to my chagrin, however, the remainder of 'Redivivus' can't quite match the lofty standard set by the extraordinary leadoff cut. At its best, this CD reminds of European heavy duty metal bands such as Brainstorm, Mystic Prophecy, Conviction, Sencirow and the like. But this is no European metal release, as there are plenty of moments that conjure Nevermore (especially "Dead faith"), Benedictum, Halford (the band), Ripper's new Beyond Fear project or even the ill-fated 'Girth' style. To be more concrete, much of 'Redivivus' aims for brutally heavy, mid-paced riffage and a fat bottom end, while always carrying prominent choruses, worthy melodies (both guitar and vocal) and the clean, slightly raspy, and sometimes straining vocals of Koch, with the entire affair nailed down by Cross's typically outstanding powerhouse drumming.

The good stuff here is positively tremendous. "Seal the light" and "Despise the lie", in particular, can hold their own against virtually any other metal song I've heard this year. Nonetheless, aside from those two hammers, I wasn't too impressed with this CD initially; fortunately, subsequent listens persuaded me that this is a solid piece of work from top to bottom. Also cool are "Spark the flame" and "Burning bridges" (with its chorus lyrical reference to "black is the heart of the killer", a nice touch). A couple of the other tracks are not so convincing, featuring more pedestrian guitar lines and some questionable production decisions. Still, if the above-referenced bands are your thing, then 'Redivivus' should be a slam dunk.




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