Wind Rose - Wardens of the West Wind - (6/10)
Published on February 18, 2015
Italy is no stranger when it comes to symphonic power metal, with acts like Rhapsody of Fire, Elvenking, and Ancient Bards having led the charge for the past three decades with bombastic music and operatic vocal deliveries. But one of the most recent bands to spring out of Italy is Wind Rose. Their sophomore album, Wardens of the West Wind, contains everything you would expect from an Italian band, and then some, so why haven’t I given it a higher score?
First, I want to give this album its due commendations. To the uninitiated, I would liken Wind Rose’s style to lie somewhere between Symphony X and Turisas; heavy folk influences, lots of orchestral backings, and a powerful lead singer at the helm. There are a few songs here that are absolutely brilliant showcases of the band’s mantra. Album opener, “Age of Conquest”, and the finale, “Rebel and Free”, are great bookends for the album, with the former reminding me of Fairyland, and the latter being reminiscent of Lost Horizon’s synth melodies at times. The symphonic passages are also very well done and tasteful; they’re not overly cheesy like Twilight Force or completely dominant and near-brickwalled like Blind Guardian’s newest album, but they fit very comfortably behind the group vocals and instrumentation. The production on the entire release is stellar, and it should stand as a good example of how a modern symphonic power metal should sound.
I’ve got three main gripes with this album. One, the folk parts seem a little shoehorned. A track like “The Breed of Durin” just stands out on the album as a result, especially since the folk aspects don’t mesh very well with the rest of the symphonic stylings, but this is a rather isolated incident. The folk parts are kept to a minimum. Two, much like the folky passages not meshing well with the symphonic passages, the gang vocals seem to be at odds with the rest of the music. They’re overused on this album, and they wear thin very quickly. The lead singer, Francesco Cavalieri, has a very impactful and powerful voice that is undermined on some tracks by the superfluous usage of the gang vocals, not to mention their disunity. Three, the songwriting is lacking. The song themselves don’t go anywhere. There’s definitely quite a bit of progressive metal on Wardens of the West Wind, but many of the songs feel stagnant and dragging. Very few of the choruses are memorable, and for a band that has such an “epic” image, that doesn’t bode well.
There’s definite high points for Wardens of the West Wind, and with some changes, this album could be monumentally better. But there’s also low points and songs that drag on for a bit too long. Wind Rose have definitely stepped up from their debut album, and it’s worth keeping an eye on them for the future, but I’d be very hard-pressed to put this in any of my top X lists of 2015.