The Veil of Summer
Shortly before sitting down and checking out what I’d like to sink my teeth into for my first review, I did some research online regarding a new book in an excellent fantasy series called “The Song of Fire and Ice”, by George R.R. Martin (this will all make sense in a minute, bear with me). Anyway, one of the kingdoms in the aforementioned series is called Winterfell, and to my surprise, as I was scrolling down the list of releases that needed reviewing, I came across a band called, you guessed it, Winterfell. I liked the idea of picking a band I’d never heard of as my first review, so I tossed my hat into the proverbial ring. Based on the album title alone, I thought I’d picked a Doom record, maybe something along the lines of Solitude Aeturnus. Well, you know what they say, don’t judge a book by its cover, and those words ring quite true in this case.
Winterfell is a young band from Pennsylvania who’ve apparently been getting quite a bit of hype from people in the underground Power Metal scene lately. Since their formation in early 2000, they’ve released one EP, Winter is Coming, and now this, their first full length, Veil of Summer. Let me say this right off the bat, I’m really picky when it comes to Power Metal. It seems like so many new bands of the genre fall flat on their swords for whatever reason; limp vocals, goofy keyboards, guitar noodling, or ridiculous lyrics. I like my Power Metal, well, powerful! I really don’t have the stomach for the sappy garbage which sadly seems to be riddling much of the genre today. In my opinion, Winterfell is a Power Metal band that hit directly on the mark.
So what makes Veil of Summer so good? Well, for one, things never get too light or fluffy. The music is just heavy enough, the soloing is impeccable, and the vocals are strong, solid and true. There will probably be some immediate comparisons to fellow American Metallers, Iced Earth, as vocalist Robb Graves' voice sounds similar (at times) to long standing Iced Earth vocalist, Matt Barlow (3 minutes into song 5, “Asatru” eg), and Winterfell play a similar style of thrashy Power Metal. I would also say there’s definitely a nod to Doomsday for the Deceiver era Flotsam & Jetsam on this release as well, especially during much of the soloing. However, this band truly figures out a way to stand on their own. I cannot stress more how much I enjoy the musicianship on this release. It’s nearly flawless, which is amazing considering it’s their first full length. Each member of this band contributes equally (although I believe the music is primarily written by the two guitarists), and one can easily focus their attention on each instrument at nearly any given point in time during the album. I tip my helm especially to the bassist, Greg Weitnecht. His work on Veil of Summer stands out for me. Not to take away from the rest of the guys, but it seems especially difficult for a bassist to have their contribution stand out when most Power Metal seems to be focused primarily on guitar work and vocals.
There’s really not much criticism to throw Winterfell’s way for this fine release. If I had to be a nitpicky old timer, I’d say maybe they could add a few more vocal effects throughout the album? Perhaps some vocal multi-tracking? As strong as Robb’s vocals are, sometimes they come off as a bit too clean. I’d also say the whispering at the end of the album goes on too long.
Overall, I’d say Winterfell’s Veil of Summer should undoubtedly be on ANY Power Metal fan’s “to seek out” list. There is no doubt in my mind this young band will be getting more acclaim in the near future. Very impressive.