Power Paladin – With the Magic of Windfyre Steel (Atomic Fire Records)Wednesday, 19th January 2022
Releasing a debut full-length on an upstart label can be a risky proposition for both band and record company – but considering the quality of Iceland act Power Paladin and the people behind Atomic Fire (with co-founders having decades of experience at Nuclear Blast) this should forge a mighty impact to start the new year. Launched in 2017, the sextet performs in a power metal realm familiar to most who love the European style: rich, uplifting vocal melodies, plenty of adventurous guitar/keyboard parts, steady bass/drum supplementation with the right dynamic energy, and additional bells and whistles to flesh out the proceedings. Pairing together the fire, dragon, castle, and forest lyrical landscapes to these driving riffs, multi-part vocal support, and narrative/sound effect enhancement, these nine tracks are a dream come true for most ardent followers of this genre.
Catchy hooks abound – much in the way that pioneers like Helloween, Blind Guardian, Running Wild and their offspring bring to the table. Plenty of singalong aspects captivate between the actual choruses, fluid lead break mechanics, and instrumental/interplay sequences. Be it high register falsetto chorus work during “Way of Kings” or the folk to electric guitar runs that penetrate “Righteous Fury”, it’s very clear that these musicians know their way around their instruments, constructing content that focuses on mandatory moments for maximum headbanging, fist waving intensity. The introduction of bell tolls and twin guitar/ keyboard maneuvers makes “Dark Crystal” a mid-album favorite – another speedy affair featuring a barrage of sixteenth note pummeling in the drum department plus a pomp-like keyboard break and a majestic, bard-oriented background vocal parts to make one thing of Orden Ogan meets early Edguy in their prime. ‘Darkness falls… and magic stirs’ from another narrative guest before the commercial-leaning “Creatures of the Night” takes control – injecting a bit more of the band’s love of 80’s arena rock influences into a mid-tempo power anthem template, the longer guitar/ keyboard tradeoffs more in the Deep Purple/Uriah Heep mold.
Add in the fantasy/magical cover art that will also enthrall and captivate and it’s easy to understand how Power Paladin have been able to make an impressive impact on the scene in such a short time, especially from a country not that well-known for its power metal output. With the Magic of Windfyre Steel will be in the running for power metal record of the year, and hopefully be the start of a very productive, fruitful career for this act.