Dead Of Winter
Released: 2016, Arkeyn Steel
I get a lot or music sent to me to check out. Without any research I put on DEAD OF WINTER by Damien Black. Listening to the album for the first time, I thought to myself, ‘Man! Have these guys got the classic 80’s sound perfected!”. I loved it. It was only later when I started to write this review that I learned that Damien Black was a relatively short-lived USPM band that were active in the early 90’s and that the record label Arkeyn Steel had just reissued this album of older material…hence the classic sound.
It doesn’t matter where or when this album was written and recorded because DEAD OF WINTER is simply superb. Everything about this band seems pretty cool. The name is excellent, the album cover while under-stated for Power Metal is still decent and the production is top-notch. The CD includes four bonus tracks, their original demo from back in 1992 and they sound is considerably rougher. The new songs according to the label have been re-recorded but I am mildly skeptical, perhaps re-mastered, but if they are fully re-recorded then I am delighted that the band may still be active. The eight songs run a about 45 minutes and the bonus tracks but it over the top at 69 minutes.
One listen and I was hooked. DEAD OF WINTER really hit a bulls-eye on every sweet-spot in my old Metal brain. I can’t think of one criticism of this album. The vocals of Mike Caruso just soar. He could easily give Geoff Tate a run for his money with piercing highs, huge powerful range and an athletic delivery. He reminds me of a more innocent time when vocalists weren’t afraid to ‘over-sing’ if there is such a thing, with Caruso adding laughs, and letting it all hang out, all the time even on the ballad ‘Pray for Me’. There are big back-up gang vocals giving the singing an extra boost. He sings cool lyrics like “…warriors on the wings of death…” and you believe it and feel it! The guitar riffs are thick and so catchy it is hard not to head-bang along to this songs. The solo blaze all over the place and speed is largely fast but they also cruise along in the mid-tempo zone. The drummer plays with lots of energy and fills and throws in nice little double-kick triplets and stuff like that. The songs run in to the 5-6 minute zone, very catchy but not fully reliant on the chorus to drag you in, there are lots of tempo-changes, and more interesting song structure to engage the listener. DEAD OF WINTER has this youthful energy and innocence of doing everything on 11….the drama, the energy, so cool at ignoring every acceptable musical convention and just hammering out killer Metal. These guys are from Florida and can be considered the early 90’s missing link between mid-80’s Crimson Glory and mid-90’s Kamelot.
More name-dropping is boring but if you like the 80’s material of Queensryche, Savatage, Lizzy Borden, Helstar, Vicious Rumours, Riot, Omen, Jag Panzer, Fates Warning, and more obscure bands like Drive, Recon, Heir Apparent, Screamer and Lethal, then you will love this album. Hail to Arkeyn Steel for unearthing and releasing such a magnificent band!