Artist: Power Paladin
Album Title: With The Magic Of Windfyre Steel
Label: Atomic Fire Records
Date of Release: 7 January 2022
When I think of Iceland, I think of the barren landscape that dominates the island. From glaciers to active volcanos, and from the barren grasslands upon which weather-beaten ponies roam to the hot springs and geysers. Musically, my mind turns to Sigur Ros or, from a more metallic standpoint, the likes of the maudlin post metal of Solstafir or the grim, cold black metal of bands like Au∂n. I do not think of epic fantasy-led power metal. However, that’s what we have here from Power Paladin and their debut release, ‘With The Magic Of Windfyre Steel’.
Formed in 2017, Power Paladin clearly spotted a gap in the market in their home country and set about plundering that chasm. Originally created under the moniker of Paladin, the band is comprised of six individual musicians who have come together to deliver their own vision of what power metal should sound like. And that vision, it appears, is classic, heroic power metal that blends the speed of Helloween and their ilk, with a touch of NWOBHM, as well as some of the synth-driven pomposity of Hammerfall and earlier Rhapsody. There are a number of other references that cross my mind fleetingly from time to time, but you get the idea and I’d rather focus on Power Paladin than spend the entire review referring to other bands.
In the past, I have perhaps been guilty of appearing dismissive or derisive of bands that don’t offer an original sound, or something within their music that’s new. That’s wrong of me because a band doesn’t always have to be completely unique to be enjoyable. And that’s definitely the case with Power Paladin. They make no secret of the influences that have come together to create their sound, instead revelling in the fact that their debut is made up of nine songs that they are proud of and which pay a certain homage to those that inspired them. This pride and delight comes through in the music, too. As I listen, I find myself a little swept up in the bombast and grandiosity of Power Paladin’s own brand of power metal.
Right out of the gate, the guitars of Bjarni Þór Jóhannsson and Ingi Þórisson alongside the keys of Bjarni Egill Ögmundsson combine to create an infectious opening composition, ‘Kraven The Hunter’. It’ll have you grinning from ear to ear and probably throwing your best air guitar shapes in front of the mirror as well. In comes a high-pitched wail from vocalist Atli Guðlaugsson, immediately confirming that he certainly has the pipes for a power metal frontman. From there, the riffs are chunky, whilst the rhythm section of drummer Einar Karl Júlíusson and bassist Kristleifur Þorsteinsson create a crisp and strong, driving tempo upon which the remainder of the song is built. Duelling lead guitar solos are both speedy and melodious, whilst Atli Guðlaugsson goes up and down his impressive range with ease and strength. The chorus is a strong one, meaning that the entire song is a mighty powerful affair. Power Paladin have my attention.
‘Righteous Fury’ follows at, quite rightly, a furious tempo, with the keys and guitar dexterity calling to mind Dragonforce at their rapid best. What I like most about this song, however, is the way that the high tempo then segues beautifully into an epic, soaring chorus that’s rather majestic, showcasing the band’s songwriting prowess to the full, as well as once again demonstrating the significant abilities of vocalist Atli Guðlaugsson very well indeed.
I mentioned the NWOBHM influences to the Power Paladin sound and ‘Evermore’ is one of the songs to ably prove my point. After a gorgeously whimsical and melodic keyboard intro, in comes a fabulous galloping riff and rhythm that calls to the ghosts of NWOBHM warriors of yore.
What fantasy-inspired power metal album would be complete without the sounds of Medieval times? Well, ‘Way Of Kings’ has that covered whilst also delivering one of the strongest choruses of the entire album. If you are beginning to think that ‘With The Magic Of Windfyre Steel’ is all saccharine power metal ear candy, think again. The music is undeniably catchy and full of melody, but Power Paladin are most definitely aware of their metal foundations. ‘Dark Crystal’ throws forth the occasional growled vocal as well as unleashing a snarling, aggressive force, driven home by an unrelenting rhythm section and muscular riffing. The ghost of Rhapsody looms large within ‘Ride The Distant Storm’ which again, is a bona fide galloping power metal anthem with plenty of grunt, not to mention a neo-classical bent.
What I wasn’t necessarily expecting was the foray at the centre of ‘Creatures Of The Night’, which lowers the intensity and dials up the blues, and injects a smidge of 70s prog rock just for good measure. As mid-track interludes go, it’s one that I thoroughly welcome, highlighting Power Paladin’s flair for a good melody as well as that most wonderful of ingredients: the guitar solo. The remaining two tracks, neither of which come even close to fabled ‘ballad’ territory, more than maintain the quality that went before them. At over seven and a half minutes in length, ‘Into The Forbidden Forest’ is easily the longest of the nine songs, but is littered with lovely aspects, including some sparkling and catchy guitar licks, not to mention a sprawling chorus that befits the longer format.
I have absolutely no qualms in stating that this is the most consistently enjoyable album that I have heard in 2022 so far. Admittedly we’re less than a week into the new year, but I’ve already consumed a fair amount of new music, and ‘With The Magic Of Windfyre Steel’ has something about it that I really rather like. It’s not pretentious, or particularly serious. It isn’t bursting with new ideas, or jaw-dropping from a technicality point of view. Instead, this album has been put together really well, it is clear about its identity and plants a smile of my face from start to finish. As such, ‘With The Magic Of Windfyre Steel’ is a whole load of fun. And wasn’t that why most of us got into heavy metal in the first place – for the enjoyment of the music? It certainly was for me, so that’s why I’m delighted to have crossed Medieval swords with Power Paladin. If quality melodic power metal influenced by the great and the good of the genre sounds like it could be your cup of tea, check it out as soon as possible.
The Score of Much Metal: 90%
Check out my other 2022 reviews here:
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: