NorthTale – Welcome to Paradise (Nuclear Blast)

Thursday, 1st August 2019
Rating: 8.5/10

Born out of the desire from three veteran metal musicians to develop a new power metal outfit, NorthTale contains guitarist Bill Hudson, drummer Patrick Johannson, and singer Christian Eriksson, along with keyboardist Jimmy Pitts and bassist Mikael Planefeldt. Bringing back a sound that brought power metal to the world in the 1990’s, Welcome to Paradise has a throwback quality while also proving to the public that anthemic choruses full of speed, power, and melody/harmony still matter – as well as delivering solid musicianship and chops to boot.

From the opening two notes of the title track, it’s obvious that we are going to get a host of uplifting European tasty power riffs and equally engaging vocal melodies/ tempos – the type that put Helloween, Stratovarius, and Hammerfall top of mind, and audiences clamor for unison harmonization when consuming the material. The grandiose orchestration of Jimmy Pitts sets up certain songs with that added burst of thematic splendor – even as the double kick drumming, uplifting cultural-enhanced guitar parts and multi-part chorus harmonies take over for “Follow Me”, the ending bringing to mind Visions-era Stratovarius. Commercial numbers like “The Rhythm of Life” and “Everyone’s a Star” prove NorthTale have a versatile outlook in terms of songwriting – the latter veering close to Kissin’ Dynamite-like charm with the semi-talkative, rhythmic-oriented verses and the larger than life, simplified chorus as the cyber-oriented keyboard hook weaves in and out of the arrangement. And for those that love the speed shred-tastic songs where all the musicians go for broke in their love for power metal, look no further than “Shape Your Reality” and “If Angels Are Real” as tasty treats to hold in high esteem.

Christian Eriksson as a vocalist epitomizes the ideal power metal singer – his natural falsetto-oriented highs and mid-range confidence resonates song to song for what NorthTale delivers on the musical front. He has no trouble keeping things engaging coming out of the syncopated shred/arpeggio breaks of Pitts and Hudson, while carrying the tenderness and reflection necessary for a softer ballad like “Way of the Light”. The record succeeds because of these top-flight musicians understanding what they want to put across and giving proper context and dynamics so as to craft material that can be up-tempo one moment, anthem-oriented the next, or just solid in the pocket. Interest is already a given because of the proven abilities of these musicians in numerous outfits familiar to most traditional/power metal followers. NorthTale hopefully will be that rising phoenix for the power world, for those who miss the mid to late 90’s European sound – as Welcome to Paradise is a welcome record for most power metalheads.

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