Icelandic power metal with heavy leanings is the kind of thing that immediately piques my interest. And the heavy part is not something I’d particularly expect looking at the richly textured, very much fantasy-based, (and excellent) cover art. Nor does the logo scream heavy. Yet the underbelly of this otherwise uber-melodic power metal band is definitely made of something stronger. That spark beneath the surface is what makes Power Paladin’s debut, With the Magic of Windfyre Steel, such a pleasant surprise.
There’s a strange dichotomy here. At least in part, Power Paladin eschews a local scene that is more often associated with various forms of black or post-metal—think Solstafir, Sinmara, Misþyrming, or, more recently, Mannveira. Yet it approaches power metal from a heavier base than one would expect given the more general Europower aesthetic. That duality gives Power Paladin its signature. More importantly, it’s a beacon for fans of power metal who are, like me, a little fatigued on the lighter end of things.
The album opens with lead single “Kraven the Hunter,” setting an aggressive tone. The addictive hard rock crunch of the guitars makes a good early impression. And the progression from one lead to the next beginning at the three-minute mark is deftly done. Because it’s not wholly representative of what will follow, but instead merely generally indicative of the heavier approach, it makes for a fun introduction to the band’s sound.
What follows is a smoothly blended and clever mix of Europower (“Ride the Distance”), NWOBHM (“Creatures of the Night”), and hard and slightly progressive rock (“Creatures of the Night”), with hints of folk (“Way of Kings”) and neoclassical metal (in the leads). While not as pronounced, that ability to so adroitly blend seemingly disparate influences reminds me at times of 3 Inches of Blood—not of the band’s sound but of the exercise of weaving distinct influences together to create something both uniform and unique, saying nothing of the fun of it all.
No song exemplifies Power Paladin’s unique approach more than “Way of Kings.” Between the folk, almost cinematic intro, heavy gallop of the rhythm guitar, and sing-a-long chorus, the song crystallizes what makes With the Magic of Windfyre Steel sound less like a relatively novice band’s debut and more like the third or fourth album from a seasoned band.
As invigorating as it is refreshing, With the Magic of Windfyre Steel not only establishes Power Paladin as a band to watch but will undoubtedly earn a well-deserved mention by many a power metal fan at year’s end. The infectious hooks make the album a fun listen. The impressive leads add to the replay value. And, above all, the heavier undercurrent that drives the band’s sound distinguishes Power Paladin from some of its more strictly Europower-influenced peers.