Arctic Winter are exceptionally, joyously metal and proud of it. Offering up twelve tracks of scintillating metal, ‘Uch Alder’ was partially recorded in 2012 (the first 9 tracks), with the rest completed in 2013 in time for this CD release. Doing a good job of misleading the listener, the cover art (depicting a bass-guitar-bearing nymph in a frozen forest) suggests a symphonic metal album heavy on opera and light on irony, but the actual music transpires to be belting metal taking its cues from Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Metallica and their ilk. It is pure, driving, classic metal and as such offers numerous reference points as it takes its breathless ride through the history of heavy metal.
As you might expect from a project conceived out of love, Arctic Winter carries with it a weighty sense of its own lineage. Thus opening track ‘Defcon 5’ does a good job of sounding like Lemmy fronting Judas Priest with its furious riffs and restless percussion, whilst ‘struggle to live’ carries with it the air of the sunset strip bands, its huge, anthemic chorus the sort of thing you can imagine tearing the roof off stadiums everywhere beck in the mid-eighties. ‘Winterstorm’, similarly, carries a hearty love of Saxon, the Scorpions and Iron Maiden and the lyrics contain more references to heavy metal than you can shake a stick at – assuming one is prone to shaking sticks at things. The result is a slick, melodic blast of metallic fun best experienced with the aid of beer and friends. Not a corner of the metal universe goes unplundered with thrash (‘fireball’), hair metal and classic rock all dutifully covered with a seemingly indomitable sprit and a fair helping of musical ability. It will probably seem a bit over-the-top to some, but as the band continue to work their magic on tracks like ‘dark side of the world’ their charm shines through and it’s clear that the album itself is very much a love letter to the genre that spawned them, and a well-written one at that.
One look art Arctic Winter’s artwork, press shots and track-listing should tell you if this is for you or not. This is true metal, with a soaring spirit and leather a-plenty and it will appeal to anyone who has flown the flag for denim ‘n’ leather over the years not least because it reflects the oassion and drama of the genre so accurately. The band play with blistering accuracy and ferocious technicality, and while the record breaks no new boundaries, it is never suggested that it should. Rather this is a chance to appreciate the wealth and diversity of the metal genre and it’s the perfect record for a gathering of your air-guitar playing mates with its crunchy riffs and finger-shredding solos. You’ll hear more original albums this year, to be sure, but you’re not likely to hear one much more dedicated to the wonderful cause of metal. Well worth checking out.