Winterstorm – Cathyron
Winterstorm – Cathyron (2014)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
Winterstorm is a band that doesn’t seem to get talked about all that much in most power metal circles, and I think that I can understand why. Often labeled as power/folk, the German six piece is actually pretty traditional heavy/power metal, but throws in a few wind and string samples to round out the standard instrumentation, as well as having a penchant for simple, hooky, folk song-inspired melodies, and shout-sung group vocals with a rough-edged, drunken bonfire sort of charm.
Cathyron kicks off in much the same way that 2012’s Kings Will Fall left off, and the band’s recognizable guitar style ignites to begin the title track, along with the (again, rustically charming) unpolished but meritorious vocals of Alexander Schirmer. If you’re a newcomer, you might think, at first, that this guy’s not a very accomplished singer in comparison to most power metal bands, and it’s true that his lower register isn’t really that great (I prefer it when he jumps up to his shouts), but almost every chorus is a stomping, layered shout-along, where any awkwardness or iffy pitch evaporates into a rowdy, high-spirited community effort. I would compare the feeling a little bit to Korpiklaani, only without all the stupid.
Cathyron, like the rest of Winterstorm’s work, isn’t a refined or experimental sort of album, and songs are inevitably going to blend together a bit as time goes on. Through “Far Away”, “Burning Gates”, and “Windkeepers” (which features some of the niftier folk instrumentation on this album), the blistering guitar keeps my attention fairly rapt, but sooner or later the novelty wears off. This is probably Winterstorm’s greatest weakness: lack of variety, and why the band is one of the few artists that I prefer to listen to in a playlist rather than sitting through entire albums.
That aside, everything is very tight for the band, and Winterstorm rolls out its third studio album quite smoothly. The production has been enhanced, the guitars sound better than ever, and the band’s formula is very refined by this point. This is actually another minor complaint in and of itself, in fact, as I sense Winterstorm’s creativity to be in a bit of a torpor. Cathyron is undeniably a very “safe” album (see “Metalavia” for this concept coming back to the grand old “let’s sing about heavy metal” concept), and doesn’t blow me out of the water for that reason alone. Unlike A Coming Storm, there’s no song here that’s so hooky and original (like “Winterheart”) that I’m going to leave it on repeat for an hour.
Cathyron is well-conceived, sure of itself, and certainly has memorable portions. However, I would like to suggest that Winterstorm has run about as far as it can with this rather specific blueprint, and needs some renovation in order to continue bringing in more fans – especially from those of us used to more dynamic power metal. Nonetheless, this is a good album, and absolutely recommended for fans of the band’s old work, pseudo-folky power metal like Elvenking, and perhaps even the simple melodic efficacy of groups like Dark Forest. I’m undecided as to exactly how to judge Winterstorm at this juncture, but Cathyron could be a whole lot worse.
3.25 // 5