Winterstorm - A coming storm 4/5

Reviewed: 12-1-11


1. A coming storm
2. The final rise
3. A wizard’s war
4. March on the peaks
5. Winterheart
6. Fortune’s blood
7. Climb the highest mountains
8. Battlecry
9. Winterhumppa
10. Thirst of revenge

Remember how, not too many years ago, every newcomer European melodic power metal band worth its salt (and more than a few who were not) was being handed a record deal? The result was an embarrassment of riches that eventually led to impoverishment, as a glut of these bands oversaturated the marketplace. Today it seems that relatively few acts in this mold are being signed, leaving many meritorious and intrepid youngsters out in the cold to hash things out via the independent route. Such is the case for Germany’s Winterstorm, who released an outstanding CD in the fantasy-based, slightly folky European melodic power metal style earlier this year, to minimal fanfare or media attention.

Let’s get the band comparisons out of the way without further ado. Think of Human Fortress’s first 2 CDs, Custard circa the criminally underrated ‘Kingdoms of your life’ opus, Spellblast, and Swedish bands like Freternia, Crystal Eyes, and even Falconer to a limited degree. Winterstorm’s music is unapologetically European, with huge melodies and well-conceived light orchestral arrangements, and sprinkling just a pinch of folky glitter over the top. The band rely on double-bass drums, stirring riffs, big choirs, prominent symphonic keys, and heartfelt mid-range vocals to weave a compelling sonic tapestry for fans of the style.

The songwriting is excellent for the most part, save the unnecessary 3-minute intro, complete with goofy narrator muttering something about 6 brave warriors – strange in itself because there are only 5 credited band members – awakening a frozen dragon. Proper opener “The final rise” is a remarkable chunk of European metal goodness that is guaranteed to put a smile on the face of all those old enough to remember the dark days of the 90s when this kind of metal had virtually disappeared. “Winterheart” is highly reminiscent of Spellblast and is also perhaps the catchiest track on display, boasting a pompous symphonic feel and a triumphant chorus that bored itself into my brain immediately and never left. And track 9, “Winterhumppa”, is a pleasant surprise, sporting a cheerful accordion motif (hello, Turisas and Finntroll) and featuring the now-familiar humppa folk sound set to power metal. Only the overblown ballad, “Climb the highest mountains”, falls a bit short by attempting to be more grandiose and epic than it really is. By contrast, “Battlecry” captures that epic vibe beautifully, with a warrior exhorting his fellows, “Follow me and we’ll never be apart/Just stab your blade right into their hearts.”

If these Germans had been kicking around in 1998 or 2001, I’ve no doubt that a sharp-eyed record label would have snapped them up immediately and they would have risen to some prominence in the scene. Unfortunately for Winterstorm, the climate is different now and the path to glory is much more challenging. That said, this quintet is onto something. Along with Italians Spellblast (whom I’ve now mentioned several times – go check out their ‘Battlecry’ CD if this style appeals to you at all), Winterstorm have the chops, the songwriting acumen, and the arranging abilities to capture the imaginations of those who cherish this classic, traditional European sound. ‘A coming storm’ may not be a masterpiece, but it is an utterly professional release in all respects that hints of what just may be greater things to come. If the titular severe weather event ever arrives, Winterstorm may be poised for true metal glory.




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