Iceland is not the first location you think of when considering the legacy of traditional or melodic metal, and would probably not be amongst the first (hundred) places you would go if you were searching for the next great Heavy Metal band. Indeed, brooding, expansive post-Rock; emotive, atmospheric Black Metal; twisted traditional folk are all styles that you’d more instantly connect with the volcanic, expansive, open landscapes of the western-most point of Scandinavia. So, I think it is fair to say that you would have got fairly long odds on the first release for the metal industry-shaking new label giants Atomic Fire being the debut album of a brand new Power Metal band from Iceland.
But, with a magic bag overflowing with tales of bravery and courage, swallowing deep their doubts and striding forward with determination and fortitude, swords aloft to stand at the forefront of the new beginning for the Nuclear Blast (et al) alumni and their new label is none other than Reykjavik’s Power Paladin, six noble warriors armed with axes (six-stringed ones, anyway), an array of anthems to slay the non-believers, and a potential army of hundreds-of-thousands of metal warriors soon to join the cause.
(I do have to take this moment to abandon the joyous light-hearted jaunt down Power-Metal-reviewing-cliche-street to be serious for a moment; With The Magic Of Wyndfyre Steel (Atomic Fire) is a wonderful first release for both band and label, and I’m only drawn to the cheesy trappings of Heavy Metal reviewing 101 because the album is such a glorious delight it is nigh-on-impossible not to do so).
Flying out the gates with a necessary naivety and fresh-faced enthusiasm, ‘Kraven The Hunter’ is an excellent stirring melodic metal song that marries an uplifting Dokken-esque bright eighties chug and stomp with a surging Power Metal sheen and rip and a chorus that would stand tall even on a Beast In Black album. This is followed up by the brief twee Stonehengeism that ushers in ‘Righteous Fury,’ an anthem that rubs shoulders with DragonForce – a joy of a tune packed with melodic duelling and verse-hooks bigger than many a bands choruses, before the first of many Helloween nods as Atli Guðlaugsson channels his inner Michael Kiske with a clever slower vocal over a full-time chorus in a way that brings an involuntary smile. This dude is a hell of a vocalist, by the way! ‘Evermore’ stands fist-to-fist with HammerFall, its headbanging rhythm chops serving as a powerful base for a mid-paced beast, while if there is any justice, ‘Dark Crystal’ will see fields of hands and voices slung to the sky in unison come festival season.
The second half of the album provides no let up as Bjarni Þór Jóhannsson and Ingi Þórisson prove their quality as a tandem guitar act of dextrous melodic brilliance. ‘Ride The Distant Storm’ is another impressive turn with elements of Rhapsody (fortunately pre-Fire) as it breaks into a twirling mid-section, ‘Creatures Of The Night’ keeps the uptempo catchiness flowing and houses a truly cavernous chorus, ‘Into The Forbidden Forest’ glances knowingly at ‘Twilight of the Gods’ (Helloween) and weaves it into an epic tale (that is very right), before all-too-soon we arrive at the mid-paced gallop of closer ‘There Can Be Only One’, which leaves one last vocal highlight ringing in our ears.
While I’ve given several reference points above, they should be noted as reference points only, for it needs highlighting that Power Paladin are no copy-cats lazily pasting the finest works of others. Nor is this pastiche, as WIth The Magic Of Wyndfyre Steel is an album with a strong and shining identity of its own with no let up in quality, energy or pace.
In my musings on the conclusion of 2021, one of my laments was the seeming decline of Power Metal as a scene and how, since Gloryhammer had self-destructed and Rhapsody (and their various iterations) and other members of the old guard were (at best) struggling to battle diminishing returns (if not serving up pale imitations of glory days long past), it was difficult to see where the spotlight was going to shift to and if there was life in the old unicorn still. Well, it is certainly clear that, while longevity has yet to be tested or proven, by delivering one of the most instantly impressive Power Metal albums of recent years, Power Paladin should see the beginning of a dragon ride across stages to festival halls and main-stage bills over the coming years. More power to their (magic) sword!
Buy the album here: https://music.atomicfire-records.com/windfyre
9 / 10