There is a definite somber quality to the image of an unknown grave in a soldier’s cemetery. There is no epitaph to declare to any passerby what it was that this person did aside from being part of some awful armed struggle between two sides somewhere far from or maybe even close to the graveyard. For every grand tale of heroic sacrifice on the battle field, for every grand monument standing above the ground where a well-known soldier is laid, there are likely many with humbler or no knowable legend to attach to their resting place.
Perhaps less somber but still rather poignant is the story of the unknown soldier who didn’t die on the battlefield, but instead served his tour of duty and came home with no amazing tales of heroics that could be readily vouched for due to few or not witnesses. These men didn’t come home adorned with medals like the known heroes, but nonetheless made their contribution despite the lack of recognition. French Power Metal outfit NORTHWIND basically falls into this category, contributing a solid piece of work in the early, “Fourth Dimension” era STRATOVARIUS style with a tiny hint of early EDGUY.
Although by 2000 (which is when a lot of this was written), there had been a good deal of precedence for this sound, it wasn’t nearly as common as when DRAGONFORCE and TWILIGHTNING put out their debuts. It compares pretty largely with HEAVENLY’s debut, which makes sense as guitarist and co-songwriter Chris Savourey had worked with the better known French Power Metal mainstay in their early days as the lead guitarist on “Coming From The Sky”. At its most complex and ambitious, particularly “It’s A Warning” and “Wasted In Paradise” you can hear things similar to the longwinded epic on “Dust To Dust” aptly dubbed “The Miracle”, which was written sometime in 1997 or 1998 and appeared on HEAVENLY’s demo.
The bulk of shorter songs on here mostly follow the earlier STRATOVARIUS model, relying on simple song structures and mostly humble guitar work. The keyboards are heavily present throughout the mix, bringing a strong SONATA ARCTICA character to much of the listen. Most of it is executed quite well, save perhaps one rather disjointed sounding guitar harmony towards the end of “Forever And A Day” and an annoying rattling sound that occasionally phases in and out of the album’s closer “Winter”. If I had to pick a single song that captures the spirit of this style the best, I’d have to go with the catchy as hell title track, which listens like a better version of STRATOVARIUS’ first big hit song “Hands Of Time”.
If you wonder what 90s style Finnish Power Metal would sound like with a French accent, and if you think that HEAVENLY is just a little too technically oriented for your taste, NORTHWIND’s “Seasons” will treat you quite well. Although the only thing really original about this album is the off-kilter cover art, it gets the job done in the quality department. The band has since been defunct, despite a brief stint with a different vocalist who now sings for Heavy Metal newcomers EDENSANDS. Perhaps this forgotten soldier will rise again and make his way onto the battle field for another blaze of Melodic Power Metal glory, but regardless its exploits have not been lost on me.
(Online August 30, 2008)