Imagine, if you will: I, some nameless n00b, sitting around the house. The doorbell rings—the mailman arrives! I open the door; he is clearly shaken. Through his tremors of disconcertment, I gather that an extremely angry metal man ordered him to deliver a certain package to one Nameless N00b_12. I don’t know how he got my address. I don’t care either. I snatch at the package and stare in awe. Frozen Land? An eponymous debut? An angry Viking on the cover? A band that wants to “bring back the 90’s golden age of Finnish power metal?” A song called “Orgy of Enlightenment?” I tremble with joy, for there is only one plausible explanation—Angry Metal Guy wants to be my friend1.
And I think I want to be his after spinning this a few times; Frozen Land is catchy, engaging, and just plain fun. The album buzzes with Euro-power goodness and oozes with enthusiasm. A lot of this is thanks to vocalist Tony Meloni. Meloni’s voice is well-suited for this kind of music. The Timo Kotipelto worship that’s inspired his performance is clear, but he pulls it off well. Although his natural singing voice is quite high-pitched, Meloni is mostly successful at avoiding “mouse-caught-in-the-door” syndrome. Instead, he focuses on making me wish I had the lyrics handy so I could sing along with him. Choruses across the album stick in your head and stay there. Better than this, Meloni sings with feeling, navigating across his impressively high vocal range more to convey that emotion than because he can.
Of course, the rest of the band have a lot to do with the record’s success as well; the songwriting on Frozen Land is clever, and the execution terrific. Frozen Land aren’t exactly offering anything new here; this debut is essentially a union between Stratovarius and early-days Sonata Arctica. Even the production is typical of late 90’s Euro-power. Juhana Heinonen’s bass is barely audible, and the snares popping off of Aki Kuokkanen’s drum kit outshine every other sound he makes. Frozen Land stands out, however, because of the quality of its songwriting. Rather than falling into the familiar trap of letting technical skill outshine everything else, Frozen Land dials back on leads and solos, and instead work with melodic riffs that give each song an unmistakable identity. Tuomas Hirvonen (guitars) and Lauri Muttilainen (keys) can certainly play fast, exciting leads. “The Rising” is a great example of their skill, and easily one of the catchiest songs on the album. More typical, however, are songs like “The Fall,” a mid-paced rocker that benefits from the combined efforts of the band as a whole, with a memorable solo and leads that are affecting, rather than showy.
Frozen Land is an album that knows when to let up with its speedy extravaganza and give the listener a break. The inclusion of mid-paced songs like “The Fall” is one of the album’s core strengths. “Loser’s Game” and “Delusions of Grandeur” open Frozen Land at a sprint, scarcely letting up or slowing down for a moment. “The Fall” and “Underworld (Manala)” follow the openers with mid-paced, more traditional heavy metal work before the band unleashes a Euro-power feast with “The Rising” and “Unsung Heroes.” Frozen Land is a well-paced album, and a very easy listen as a result. The album closes with a cover, E-Type’s “Angels Crying,” and finds a surprisingly fitting conclusion with the (former) EDM tune. The band’s performance remains consistent throughout; fast or slow, there are simply no bad songs here.
Around my third play-through of Frozen Land, I essentially forgot that I was supposed to be reviewing it, and just kept playing it because it was fun. At any given point over the past week, I’ve had a little bit of nearly every song on the album stuck in my head.2 As a whole, Frozen Land is smartly-crafted and engaging like few power metal albums I’ve heard this year. This is an impressive debut for sure, and I am looking forward to seeing what Frozen Land comes up with next.