Treehouse of Death
Reviewing this release I would hate to stick any labels here since for some of you power metal is nothing else but mountains of cheese sprinkled with tons of powdered sugar and honey. And if I mentioned the term progressive some more skeptical metalheads would supposedly fall asleep right on the spot being attacked by an instant spell of narcolepsy. Death or black, being the synonyms of leprosy in some vocabularies, work even better than skunk essence for an impregnable power metaller. And folk metal is just too paltry for some more refined ears. Nonetheless, I�ll have to give it away and tell you that the five members of another Finnish wonder, oddly called KIUAS, have discovered their pretty fresh fount of uniqueness and multiplicity and brim over with sudden moves and solutions willing to bring power, progressive, folk and some other stagnant styles back to a new life.
Well, are they up to this reanimation task with their sophomore onslaught appropriately titled Reformation? Definitely, they are. I have yet to come across a better new power metal release this year capable of giving rise to the whole enchilada of fresh emotions and frank commendations. It�s too bad I still haven�t had a chance of familiarizing myself with their debut album. Having played this record for a dozen of times already, I�ve been caught off guard by something really new with every new spin, so many unexpected traps and snares do they set up throughout the album! Yeah, this is a total-lot power/progressive metal album (with the stress on power) with a fucking throng of folk and some melodic death ingredients. But even with an absolute hotchpotch in the upshot, these guys don�t overshoot the mark offering ten well-crafted yet inequable masterpieces dazing you with bloody entrancing melodies, inexpressible guitar labyrinths, relevantly ingrained key and bass hooks and diverse vocal work of irresistible mesmerism.
It is this vocal mesmerism by Ilja Jalkanen that completely arrested my attention during the very first spin. This folk can be rightfully regarded as an owner of a matchless vocal range switching from the sharp huskiness in the mode of Tim Aymar (Pharaoh, Control Denied) and Russell Allen (Symphony X) to the hollow elegance inherent in such singers as Jonny Lindqvist (Nocturnal Rites) and even Tony Kakko (Sonata Arctica). Well guys, I love this vocalist, and believe me he is really a man with a throat of cast iron, if not more.
Song-wise, they have also come up to my most unpredictable expectations. Race With The Falcons, the opening track, will blow you away with the very first chords delivered by the immense leads, savage vocal overtones and classical grand piano interlude followed by short yet glorious guitar solo. So will Through The Ice Age with its inconsistent progressive riffing in the vein of Symphony X and twin guitar harmonies scattered all over the song. The New Chapter and Of Ancient Wounds, being of a more traditional power metal tinge, bear most strongly the impress of Nocturnal Rites and Thunderstone. And though they are not so fierce as the first twosome, they still can boast of the same impulsive force and instant charm.
Child Of Cimmeria and Black Winged Goddess are actually the one song with the first being a short alluring intro smoothly passing into the most extrinsic piece on the album, mostly due to the brutish guttural growls in the chorus part by guest vocalist Niko Kalliojarvi. Yet this is a killer piece proving that all metal genres are of the same origin and can get on perfectly with each other. There are some folk and progressive elements here somewhat reminiscent of Kamelot�s later works. Heart Of Serpent will bring you back to the opening two tracks introducing the same irregularity in riffing and twin guitars, which, nevertheless, spring out of a completely different soil than those of Iron Maiden. You will also be rewarded here with the unforeseen solo fireworks from brilliant guitarist Mikko Salovaara.
I must admit being absolutely nuts on high-quality awe-inspiring ballads able not only to stir you up with the outburst of emotions but also make you shed a gentleman�s scanty tear or two. And Bleeding Strings with its fanciful plucked guitars, terrific riffs and unforgettable melodiousness is just the case. Seldom do metal bands nowadays make such manifold and beautiful ballads. Call Of The Horns, one of the most stunning licks on the album, actually was the very track that drew my attention to the band some time ago. I was so impressed with it I couldn�t wait to get my teeth into reviewing this damn thing. The song itself is of the same homicidal power as Race With The Falcons and is unlikely to leave you indifferent with its fucking tempting twin solos echoing the intense nuclear leads. The final title opus is of a far different nature than the rest of the album and may seem a tad out of place here owing to the whole conglomeration of classical instruments and choirs. It evidently shows a tendency to symphonic power trademarks, but still is a good finale for this grandiose release.
All in all, hats off to KIUAS at least due to the fact they prefer forging metal in the vein of KIUAS to being just another clone of Stratovarius or Sonata Arctica. Everything here, from the sinister paganish idol on the front cover to the tempting violins and cellos in the closing track, is meant to cause the exciting creeps all over your body. And although this reviewer dubs it a power/progressive album, it is still old good heavy metal with no boundaries and restrictions able to win the heart of any open-minded fan, no matter what metal generation he or she belongs to.
I strongly recommend checking out Race With The Falcons and Bleeding Strings.