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Various Artists - 'Ragnarok Juletide' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/ef/15/a0/Various-Artists-Ragnarok-Juletide-57-1426450855.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     March 15, 2015    
 
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Whilst this is obviously aimed at Symphonic/Power Metal fans, the songs are good and accessible enough to appeal to a far wider range.

I'd like to open proceedings by stating that I fecking hate Christmas. Before I am castigated for being an utterly miserable bastard, I would like to add that once it was one of my favourite times of the year. But now it arrives earlier each year to such an extent we can't even get through summer before it all bloody starts.

Therefore 'Ragnarok Juletide' wouldn't seem a very apt review for me, but then it's a bit of a different beast when compared to the usual festive tripe. This Finnish all-star project was founded by Erkka Korhonen (Northern Kings) ten years ago under the moniker of 'Raskasta Joulua' ('Heavy Christmas') and each year it's success and popularity has grown; the 2014 tour is set to last over a month and U.K. dates were even discussed.

Musically this is based in the Symphonic Power Metal arena; imagine Northern Kings or Sonata Arctica doing a Christmas Carols album and you will have a firm idea of what this is all about. Considering the project includes Korhonen (guitars, arrangements – NK) and vocalists Tony Kakko (NK, SA), Marco Hietala (NK, Nightwish, Tarot), Elize Ryd (Amaranthe), J.P. Leppaluoto (NK) and Jarkko Ahola (NK), those comparisons are hardly unexpected.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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What might come as a surprise is just how good these traditional songs sound when give a Finnish Power Metal make over. Admittedly some work better than others, especially on the vocal front, but there are plenty to highlight. '...Juletide' opens in lively fashion with 'We Celebrate At Christmastime' which has a fun chugging riff and plenty of Power solos/interludes. 'The First Noel' has been transformed with a crunchy progression and double-drum outbursts, whereas 'Little Drummer Boy' is played at the expected pace but built upon a chugging riff with liberally sprinkled, tinkering piano.

'Christmas Is Here' features Ryd's soaring vocals, some well placed double-drum explosions, a chorus designed to be catchy and some excellent soloing. But top mention must go to 'White Christmas' with its twin lead opening and solo, Hietala's roared vocals, pounding drums and chugging progression. You really have never heard it performed like this... pipe, Xmas jumper and a glass of port this isn't. There's also some wonderful Symphonic-like interludes that bring in other songs like a segment of 'O Come All Ye Faithful' in '...Noel' and 'Walking In The Air' during 'Here On The Hay'.

This may not have quite the same life changing effect as Scrooges three ghosts, but the songs work well in their new form and the performances and technical side are spot on. Whilst this is obviously aimed at Symphonic/Power Metal fans (and they'll love it), the songs are good and accessible enough to appeal to a far wider range.

Dave Scott

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