Atomic FireAtomic Fire

Brought to you by the same people who launched Nuclear Blast back in 1987, ATOMIC FIRE is a new independent metal label based in – where else? – Germany. They’ve got a pretty impressive roster to boast about which includes Opeth, Michael Schenker Group, Primal Fear and Helloween, and kick off January 2022 with a clutch of interesting releases.


Iceland’s POWER PALADIN might be new to many, but their debut album ‘With The Magic Of Windfyre Steel’ is power metal heaven. The six-piece outfit came together in Reykjavik in 2017, seemingly living on a diet of the likes of Hammerfall and Edguy, and have amassed a number of plaudits in their home country. And it’s easy to see why. The album is a perfect representation of the genre, fast ‘n’ furious on the one hand and slick and melodic on the other, with duelling guitars, symphonic backdrops and pitch-perfect vocals from Atli Gudlaugsson. There’s a great line in their biography – “on an island known for its musical doom and gloom they are the midnight sun” – which sums the band up perfectly, as on songs like ‘Way Of Kings’ and ‘Righteous Fury’ Power Paladin blaze along with a self-evident pleasure that’s the very antithesis of countrymen Solstafir, for example. The only real downside to this album is that the artwork doesn’t really do it justice: the cover looks a bit twee, when what’s called for is something grandiose and majestic to match the quality of the music therein. But that’s a minor quibble. Crank up The Magic and enjoy...


A band that needs no introduction is SONATA ARCTICA, whose first release for the label, ‘Acoustic Adventures Volume One’, features – fairly obviously – unplugged renditions of material cherry-picked from their extensive and opulent back catalogue. Having taken acoustic sets on the road in 2016 and 2019 the next logical move for the band was to capture them in the studio, and this album presents twelve such renditions; a further volume is due later in the year. Performing the material acoustically brings out different facets to the songs and moves the emphasis from power to passion, and it’s interesting to see that even in stripped-down form the likes of ‘Don’t Say A Word’ and the rather joyous ‘Wolf & Raven’ have lost none of their integrity.


If you get it right when writing a song for a film you’re set for life: the song seeps into the music mainstream consciousness and is there forevermore; even if you don’t know the film the song itself becomes etched into music history. The idea of covering a clutch of such iconic tunes came to Pretty Maids’ guitarist Chris Laney, and having converted Royal Hunt drummer Allan Sørensen to the cause (via a demo of ‘Pop Goes My Heart’, apparently) they then signed up vocalists Björn ‘Speed’ Strid and Linnéa Vikström Egg, bassist Pontus Egberg, guitarist Pontus Norgren and keyboard player Morten Sandager. The result is AT THE MOVIES, a project which comes at things from a novelty angle and does pretty much exactly what it says on the tin by offering up re-workings of familiar film tunes. ‘The Soundtrack Of Your Life – Volume 1’ is a re-issue of a romp through the Eighties (but features a bonus track ‘Last Christmas’) while the newly unveiled ‘...Volume 2’ tackles the following decade. A bit like Björn Strid’s own The Night Flight Orchestra, At The Movies isn’t really to be taken too seriously; but it is fun and will put a smile on your face as the crew work cinematic classics like ‘(I Just) Died In Your Arms’, ‘Heaven Is A Place On Earth’, ‘Maniac’ and ‘(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life’. And don’t forget, nobody puts metal in the corner...


The final album in the label’s opening salvo comes from Kee Marcello’s OUT OF THIS WORLD (can you see what the ex-Europe guitarist did there?) whose self-titled album is already a monster in Japan. Aided and abetted by vocalist Tommy Heart, bassist Ken Sandin and drummer Darby Todd ‘Out Of This World’ – as expected – follows very much a melodic metal pathway, and although Marcello could never be accused of being a slouch on the guitar Heart’s vocals do pretty much steal the show. Opener ‘Twilight’ is a masterclass in songwriting, ‘Staring At The Sun’ pulls off a toe-tapping Police-style groove in the verse, Don Airey adds the keyboard flourishes and the addition of three demo tracks round the album up to the 60 minute mark.

And if that’s not enough, February sees the release of the self-titled new album from MYSTIC CIRCLE, the legendary German extreme metal band whose reformation re-unites founder members Beelzebub and A.Blackwar. Driving and forceful, the CD features a bonus cover of Possessed’s ‘Death Metal’. And 11 February sees release of ‘Halo’, the long-awaited and hotly-tipped new studio album from AMORPHIS (pictured below), surely one of the finest bands around today. Can't wait for that one...


© John Tucker January 2022