Winter in June

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Finland's Kiuas neatly transcend categorization on 2004's Winter in June -- their third EP in as many years and first delivered through English Rage of Achilles Records. The songwriting discipline and melodic preoccupations of power metal are definitely a starting point for tracks like "Winter in June," "Warrior Soul," and "Song for the Fells," but Kiuas also push each track into progressive and almost death metal territory with their sporadic use of rough vocals, extremely aggressive guitar tones, and dazzling keyboard runs. The entire band can play their asses off and frontman Ilja Jalkanen stands out for both versatility and power, but guitar player Mikko Salovaara is simply a monster! As well as handling the group's occasional death-style vocal duties, the guy simply smokes across the fretboard as both a soloist and, perhaps even more impressively, as a rhythm player. Ending track "Across the Snows" is at once the greatest departure and least distinctive moment, for it borrows a bit too liberally from Finnish folk-metal heroes Amorphis with its native lyrics and employment of a kantele. Still, this hardly detracts from the all-around promise of this rising act.