The brothers of the hammer strike again!
The past few years have been nothing short of surreal, and few know it better than that merry band of Mithril miners from the mountains of Tuscany known as Wind Rose. Though already amassing a respectable yield from the foothills of Inner Wound Recordings with their 2017 offering “Stonehymn,” they would hit absolute pay dirt after being picked up by Napalm Records and becoming an online sensation thanks to their metallic rendition of the internet meme turned hit song “Diggy Diggy Hole” originally penned by Yogscast. Following the subsequent success of 2019’s “Wintersaga,” the sky seemed to be the limit until the pillaging dragon of Covid-19 put an absolutely damper on the touring market and left the entire world in a state of limbo for the better part of 2 years. But dwarves are resilient creatures, and they don’t waste their time with dillydally when there is a mountain kingdom to reclaim, and thus with 2022 has come a new saga of beard and axe-toting majesty with a folksy edge.
In many respects, “Warfront,” this quintet’s fifth studio foray, is a different chest of jewels compared to their last few mining expeditions. Having explored much of the lore concerning their kin in the literature of J.R.R. Tolkien, their eyes have now become affixed upon new horizons, occasionally ones that reach beyond the earth and among the stars above. In like fashion, the musical content that is along for the ride has taken a notable uptick in terms of production quality and atmospheric density that borders on the symphonic extravagance of fellow Italian fantasy purveyors Rhapsody Of Fire. Yet at its core, it is the same mixture of high octane, up tempo power metal with a blend of occasional progressive twists and enough folksy hooks to fill the bowls of every famished dwarf at an evening feast. Comparisons to the technically charged and infectious melodies of Wintersun become all but inevitable, though at the same time, these sons of Durin know the value of letting the song breathe and develop organically without excessive amounts of technical gimmickry.
True to the cinematic nature of their adopted style, Wind Rose enters the fray with a grand call to arms before the battle commences. The instrumental prelude “Of War And Sorrow” carries all the splendor of a Hollywood soundtrack number, though touched by a sense of melancholy and loss that makes the consequences of the upcoming struggle known through a brilliant display of ethereal foreshadowing. It also proves to be the proverbial calm before the storm, as with the entry of “Army Of Stone”, the hammer comes slamming down upon the molten blade of war like a 2 ton anvil, progressing from a mid-paced stomp to a fast cruising charge with the overhang of sorrowful orchestral timbers still in view. But amid the pummeling guitars, thunderous drums and lamenting keyboards stands a choir of mighty voices, resounding like the echoing roar of an avalanche from the snowy peaks, as helmsman Francesco Cavalieri wails away like a perfect amalgam of Russell Allen and Jari Maenpaa.
As the album progresses, it becomes clear that the grandiose flavor that begins this lofty journey to distant lands will prove to be a constant. The quick-paced and rhythmically nuanced ode to epic battles dubbed “Tales Of War” brilliantly works in some of the Symphony X influences inherent in this band’s past into a streamlined power anthem that is chock full of enough sing-along moments to rival Ensiferum’s most blatant fanfare. The folk elements reach a fever pitch with the entry of “Fellows Of The Hammer”, which showcases the chops of keyboardist Federico Meranda about as much as it does the capability of Cavalieri and the others to wheel through rapidly sung syllabic melodies effortlessly after the mold of Blind Guardian. The catchiness continues to ratchet up with the upper-mid paced banger and single “Together We Rise”, while the ode to interstellar dwarven exploits via the Warhammer 40k universe “Gates Of Ekrund” weaves a brilliant melodic narrative into a mid-paced crusher of an anthem, ditto the billowing baritone chants set to a crunchy riffing machine and some busy instrumental detailing that is “One Last Day”.
While the aforementioned lead up that rounds out the first 2/3rds of the album is nothing short of astounding, Wind Rose saves the best for last in two towering epics. The swift thrashing nod to The Hobbit in “The Battle Of The Five Armies” turns up the Wintersun influences something fierce, standing as the most aggressive offering of the lot and also one of the most technically charged, with guitarist Claudio Falconcini and drummer Federico Gatti outdoing themselves at every turn. But the coup de grace that brings this whole album home with volcanic soot and disturbed earth all over its helmet is the epic and inspirational colossus “I Am The Mountain”, which sees Cavalieri stepping out of the realm of the fantastical to weave a real life tale of every man and woman that weathered the storm of the Covid lockdowns and came out on the other end scarred yet undaunted, paying tribute to the dwarven hero in us all. Following such extravagance, the closing acoustic ballad “Tomorrow Has Come” almost seems an afterthought, though also proves a welcome denouement to an album that was one massive climax point after another.
For seven years the author of this review has been steadfast in his view that Wind Rose would never top the brilliant manifesto of folk-infused power metal and fantastical storytelling that was 2015’s “Wardens Of The West Wind.” Yet like anyone making such bold assertions, he was simultaneously hoping to be proven wrong, and roughly 7 years to the day that has now come to pass. In a time where the entire metal scene is tirelessly working to rebuild after the stagnation and despair that raged throughout the early 2020s, this is the sort of musical heroism that can inspire throngs of future artists to take up an instrument and continue the tradition, to speak nothing for those in other fields of work who could reach greater aspirations while recalling its stellar melodies and poignant words. Every band has that moment where everything comes together and an absolute masterpiece comes out at the other end, and this looks to be Wind Rose’s second time at the summit with a haul impressive enough to become album of the year. Hold your heads and your axes high mates, for victory is just a play button push away.
Released By: Napalm Records
Release Date: June 10th, 2022
Genre: Power Metal
- Of War and Sorrow
- Army of Stone
- Tales of War
- Fellows of the Hammer
- Together We Rise
- Gates of Ekrund
- One Last Day
- The Battle of the Five Armies
- I Am the Mountain
- Tomorrow Has Come
Wind Rose is:
- Francesco Cavalieri / Lead vocals
- Claudio Falconcini / Guitars, backing vocals
- Federico Meranda / Keyboards
- Cristiano Bertocchi / Bass, backing vocals
- Federico Gatti / Drums
“Warfront” can be ordered in various formats here.
Emerging from the rollercoaster of newly found fame followed by 2 years of lockdowns, the stalwart dwarves of the Italian power metal scene usher up another grand series of sonic exploits from the shadow of Erebor to the Gates of Ekrund with a folksy edge and the pizzazz of a theatrical blockbuster