A year that begins with great power metal carried on the winds can never turn foul. To that end, in rides Power Paladin on steeds of shining fire to set 2022 off on flying dragon wings. Hailing from the fantastic land of magic (also known as Iceland), this six piece dropped their debut album just a week into the new year; With the Magic of Windfyre Steel. The title tells you most of what you need to know; high energy, majestic power metal the likes of which Rhapsody of Fire heralded ages ago - to claim the throne of the kings of Nordic twilight. In short, it’s gonna be epic. And Power Paladin wastes little time setting things in motion as their debut single Kraven the Hunter bursts off in flying colors with lightning quick guitars and powerful melodic antics. What then follows is one of the greatest debut albums the genre has ever seen. Bjarni Þór Jóhannsson and Ingi Þórisson sling lightning fast guitar leads and hooks abound in Righteous Fury, a straight up speed metal number that capitalizes on the fretsmanship of the guitarists, while still giving keyboardist Bjarni Egill Ögmundsson plenty of room to fuel the fire.
The riffing, too, is top notch, melodic and memorable as Jóhannsson and Þórisson build each song on their towering, melodic approach, trading off each other while Ögmundsson unleashes melodic fire of his own as support. Dark Crystal takes a harder approach, fleshy riffing abound akin to the aggressive German school of the genre while Ride the Distant Storm seems inspired by Luca Turilli and Rhapsody of Fire classics. The chorus is of course the most important part of any power metal song, to which end Power Paladin deliver like crazy. Epic, melodic sing-along choruses made larger than life thanks to Atli Guðlaugsson’s stellar performance run through the album, lining it with gold and fairy dust. Still the guys haven’t skimped on pampering every other part of the each song like a baby’s bottom either; the verses are crammed with melodic hooks and great melodic riffing, while the solos burn and soar like dragons battling in the skies. All of this becomes amped up through the final three songs of the album, which highlight the various aspects of the album masterfully; Creatures of the Night going the soaring, epic approach while Into the Forbidden Forest deliver epic, serious storytelling through dark riffing and an incredible performance from Guðlaugsson. There Can Be Only One seems mostly like showing off, all the members pitching in for a seven minute revelry in power metal goodness.
Be it the classic melodic antics of Way of Kings, the screeching fury of Kraven the Hunter or the genre pushing rifflordness of Dark Crystal, there’ll definitely be something here for every type of power metal fan. Inspiration seems often plucked from throughout the power metal kingdom; at times it’s absolutely Gloryhammer-ian, other times the power of Finnish icons are invoked and all the while it’s more Helloween than Helloween themselves. All along a Maiden inspired gallop and dual guitars remains a backdrop feature alongside a sense of adventure not seen since the early Rhapsody of Fire days, in the vein of Twilight Force’s debut. It’s all so energetic, so brimming with passion and glory for the craft. The guys seem absolutely inspired every step of the way, in love with the music and the tales and the power they present. It’s bold and adventurous, and it unashamedly takes the tropes of the genre and runs with them, all the while delivering with a convincing pathos and true, glorious musicianship for one of the greatest power metal albums in recent history - or maybe ever. Whether they walk through dark, enchanted forests or fly on dragon wings through crystal skies, Power Paladin proves anything is possible with the magic of windfyre steel!
Standout tracks: Way of Kings, Creatures of the Night, Into the Forbidden Forest, There Can Only Be One