There was a time in late 1990s when my musical diet included liberal helpings of In Flames' "Colony" alongside Iced Earth's "Burnt Offerings" and I wondered what would happen if a clean vocalist fronted a melodic death metal band. If I were to address this question now, the answer would almost certainly reference Switzerland's Pertness, who prove beyond reasonable doubt that the line between power metal and melodic death metal is very blurry, and that a band can succeed by drawing cues from both genres.
From the first notes of the album's title track, it is clear that Pertness means business. The riffing is thick and meaty, the drumming aggressive, and the vocal approach straddles the line between rough clean delivery akin to Sabaton's Joakim Broden, Sabbat's Martin Walkyier, or Grave Digger's Chris Boltendahl, and all-out extreme vocal assault. Had Tom Schluchter opted for death metal growl instead of clean (if not particularly melodic) voice, "Frozen Time" would have been a melodic death metal album, as Pertness can go toe-to-toe with most Gothenburg prodigies in terms of heaviness. At times, the Swiss foursome sound frighteningly like Amon Amarth or more recent Dark Tranquillity due to prominent, but not overwhelming keyboards.
Pertness is adept at crafting strong, memorable songs with massive hooks, and they are not afraid to change things up with tasteful inclusion of folk elements, backing choirs, some syncopated rhythm patterns ("I Sold My Remorse"), and even an occasional blast beat. "Frozen Time" incorporates the best, most enjoyable elements of both power and melodic death metal, polished enough to be mentioned in the same sentence as Sabaton and Stratovarius and yet heavy enough to appeal to fans of more extreme music. The songs are fast when they need to be ("Farewell to the Past", "Shadow Knights"), melodic when it is called for ("No More Messiah"), and aggressive in a way that would make many modern metal acts green with envy when the music calls for it ("My Will is Broken", "The Last Survival"). By the time the folk-infused "The Star of the County Down" closes the album on a softer note, Pertness covers the entire gamut of melodic, catchy, aggressive metal, providing an altogether satisfying experience.
This is the band that proves one does not need to play at black metal tempos to present a fresh take on a tried-and-true style, and that an inventive band can still breathe new life into power metal. Pertness deserves to be better known, and "Frozen Time" might yet be the breakthrough album that will expose them to larger audiences.