Born Of Fire – Dead Winter Sun
Reviewed by Nick Kane
After 10 plus years, Arizona power metal band, Born Of Fire, is releasing a new album with a new singer. Mind you, I’m not really familiar with the band at all. Its sound is a bit heavier than most power metal bands of the modern era, though I do think that is starting to change overall – more on that later. Forming out of the mid-nineties, Born Of Fire released a demo in 1999 with a full length, Transformation, the year after. It also released a self-titled EP in 2001, then promptly disappeared.
The return record, Dead Winter Sun, starts off pretty strong with “Cast The Last Stone”, which begins with a clean guitar intro and soft vocals, then kicks the distortion into heavy chords and a guitar lead over it. It may just be the promo, but the production could be a bit better. It’s not cluttered or muffled, but it feels flat. Let’s move that to the side though. I’ve really been trying to place my finger on who the singer, Gordon Tittsworth, sounds like, and after playing a session of D&D and going through my catalog, I think Tittsworth has the style of Arch/Alder/Tate’s top end, and a bit of his own when there are low vocals. There aren’t really any kind of dynamics going on with his vocals in the first song, which somewhat loses my interest. Even the riffs are a bit dull in some places.
The self-titled track begins like the first. Clean intro, “thoughtful” vocals, then kicking things in. Heavy chords into a chunky rhythm with baritone vocals, and it kind of has a simplified Nevermore feel. Damn, now that I mention it, some parts have a Warrel Dane feel. The choruses step into the top end with a bit of double bass. The rhythm of the verse is a quarter-note, bass-heavy, thump thump thump thump. It’s somewhat different, and feels like it came from a 70s hard rock band gone way heavier. Bump and grind, bump and grind. Well, more like bump bump bump bump.
Next, “Echoes of the Lost” begins the same way…but with violins playing almost constant 8th notes. Wait, what’s this? A ballad? Slower tempo, wailing vocals, guitar chords. Eh. The high vocals are grating in this song, especially when he really goes up there, which is weird for me to say as a Rush fan. This really didn’t capture my attention with its flat layout. For a ballad it lacks some sort of energy, and I feel like I would in a doom metal song.
One song really got my attention, though I’m not sure if in a good way yet. I had to double check my iTunes to see if it had skipped to another band. “In a Cold World” has quite an aggressive sound to it, and the band members’ influences really leak out this one. If you check out Metal Archives, you’ll see their various other projects are thrash, doom, and death metal. A bit over halfway in, it goes…death metalish. Harsh vocals and halftime tempo with chunky grooves. It’s not really a breakdown, but it really did feel out of place and seemed like a last-minute decision.
There’s another ballad on here – “Last Goodbye” – which is honestly good except for the choruses. The lyrics feel so cliché, and the melody doesn’t really help at all. Gordon’s vocals shine a bit more on this song, using more mid-range than just going from baritone to falsetto. The guitars shine too, doing some really cool rhythmic and clean passages. It would really be a nice piece, but the sappy heart-broken lyrics just don’t jive with me vibe on this one.
Leading from a really sappy song into a complete reversal, Born Of Fire and Gordon wail into those heavy rhythms and Fates Warning-esque screams with “Spiritual Warfare.” It’s probably the best song of the album, with some cool guitar work in between passages, interesting structure that doesn’t necessarily follow the verse-chorus-verse-chorus pattern, and some of Tittsworth’s more dynamic vocals. With quality lyrics and melodies that one can follow, it may really be the highlight of the album. I’m almost certain the last half of the album is the strongest, as the final track “When Hope Dies” has a nice driving riff and the best vocal melody. Gordon’s voice really comes through on this song, and isn’t battling with the guitars for spotlight. It’s a short, simple song that shows off a bit of the band’s other influences with some thrash drums coming in to pull some aggression. As a drummer, this track got my attention with its drum pattern. Really simple, but it followed the guitars so damn tight, and gave it a boost of energy where it needed it.
Overall, the album is decent and solid, but leaves me wanting. The first half feels flat to me, and could use a boost of energy. The sound is mostly melancholic and dark, which is understandable with guitarists doing work in death and doom bands as well as Born Of Fire. Sometimes Gordon’s high vocals don’t mesh well with the songs and seem overdone. He has a good voice, but sometimes the really high notes made me wince. Dead Winter Sun is average power metal with nothing much to really make it stand out other than a song with poorly done harsh vocals and an attempt to be modern with a halftime in the middle. There’s potential for them to be something else than average, but they have yet to find it.
2.75 // 5