Originally released in 2003, Rising Symphony turned out to be the studio-recorded swansong of Swedish power metal maestros Stormwind. And although at first listen it’s easy to write the record off as standard-issue Malmsteen worship, there was a actually a little more to the band than that.

Not that that’s apparent once lead-off track Touch The Flames gets under way, all blazing double kick drums and duelling axe and keyboard solos. It’s exciting stuff, of course, if you like this sort of thing, but, whilst the performances are undoubtedly top notch it’s all a bit ho-hum in the great scheme of things…

Knowing that this is/was a last go around in hindsight may lead the contemporary listener to make decisions about the music that they wouldn’t have drawn at the time, but there is an air of defeat around this album, a sense that the band’s mainman Thomas Wolf perhaps felt he had explored the main power metal venues as far as was feasible. Hence more hard rock/AOR creeps into the album on the likes of the superbly pompous Eyes of Change, the strangely-placed Queen cover White Man and the excellent but slightly incongruous Streets of Prishtine. Again, it’s important to emphasise that the performances of all involved are top drawer – this doesn’t smell of contractual obligation – but the lack of cohesion does seem to point to a band at the end of it’s creative tether somewhat.

Wolf makes telling guitar contributions throughout, of course, but the real star of the show has to be vocalist (and later Therion associate) Thomas Vikstrom, who takes all the stylistic jiggery pokey in his stride to deliver a compelling, bravura performance. His vocal on the Viking epic Strangers From The Sea is quite hair-raising, but he proves himself equally at home on the lighter material; the balladic River of Love in particular benefits from his masterful command of  range and phrasing.

Bassist Andreas Olsson went on to enjoy a successful tenure in pomp metallers Royal Hunt, whilst his rhythm buddy David Wallin now occupies the HammerFall drum throne. Keyboarder Kaspar Dahlquist can now be found tinkling ivories in Sweden’s Shadowquest, showing that Stormwind was a proving ground for all concerned, even if the band itself foundered on the rocks of public disinterest in the end. As such, this album is little more than a footnote in metal history, but still worth a listen if quality performance and superior chops get your juices flowing.

Rising Symphony releases on April 30th.