~reviewed by Joel Steudler
Siegfried's Eisenwinter is a cold gust of germanic neoclassical metal that blasts listeners into an ancient time full of epic events and high drama. Unfortunately, I don't know what those events are since I don't understand a lick of German... but it doesn't diminish the drive and emotion behind them, nor the power of the tales Siegfried tells. A seething brew of diverse vocal styles, deft songwriting, and gritty production coalesce into a potent potion that many will enjoy.
Eisenwinter is dominated by three strong vocal performances. Leading the choral assault is Hagen (also known as Bruder Cle to those who favor calling people by two names). Hagen's strained, gravel-throated shouting at first reminded me of a cartoon viking (like that cute little Asterix guy), but as I listened more, his delivery grew on me. His raspy yells are filled with yearning, rage, and... rage. So, a tortured teutonic cartoon viking, then, if such a thing could exist. In stark contrast, Sandra Schleret provides operatic female vocals that are more 'strong and forceful' than 'pretty'. Her mid-range delivery is clear and evocative... and sometimes a little frighteningly crazed, too. Rounding out the vocal trio, Werner Bialek provides suitably epic clean male singing. The disparate styles work together surprisingly well and give the music an edgy presence and moving intensity.
Though the vocals command the lion's share of attention, the instrumental arrangements on Eisenwinter are similarly compelling. The music is grounded on a solid base of thrashy riffs with somber, epic overtones. Their raw, sharp guitar sound is complimented by equally earthy keyboard arrangements. Unlike many bands these days, Siegfried do not drench their tracks in syrupy studio gloss... and the album is far better for it. Focused and clear, the production transforms the passion behind the band's performance into an energetic and gripping album.
Somewhere, in a feasting hall where mortal men are taken when they die, a troop of valkyries is probably listening to Eisenwinter as they take a break from escorting fallen heroes to their eternal reward. I have a feeling that Richard Wagner would also approve of the combination of ferocity and musicianship Siegfried brings to the table. Beauty and brutality clash in epic battle on this excellent album that will fuel the fires of metal fandom and keep the halls of Valhalla warm on those cold winter nights.
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