Holy Shire – Midgard
Holy Shire – Midgard (2014)
Reviewed by Mark Nagy
Were I the recently deceased (and subsequently re-animated) Arno Callens, I’d have a great “Holy Shire!” pun to lead off with, but I have standards and I’m about to throw them out the window because “Holy Shire! A power metal band covering Greensleeves?!?!” (Way out the window). Even though I can only recall two other artists doing this, one of them was Ritchie Blackmore, and anything past that just seems horribly cliche. Cliche might be a bad word to describe the debut album from this group, titled Midgard. I did, however, find myself enjoying it quite a bit.
Holy Shire plays a brand of folk metal that will have anyone who knows anything about genres screaming that it isn’t actually folk metal (because it isn’t), but there is a pretty active flute player on several tracks, and that’s pretty cool. Other than the flute, we’ve got a pretty standard, middle of the road fantasy-influenced power metal concept album. There are two lead singers on the record, one male and one female, and neither are really all that good. Both of them are shooting for an operatic style that’s probably a bit beyond their abilities. Not for lack of talent, but just because both of them have, frankly, pretty annoying voices.
But what of the positives? For a band dead set on playing a whole album at a plodding middle pace, Holy Shire is pretty effective at keeping it fresh and listenable. When I get past either singers piercing, shrieking vibrato, I’m pleased to report on some pretty all right music. Sometimes it’s even catchy and really good. The whole medieval, pseudo-folk fantasy power metal binge might be super played out, but I was fine when Logar’s Diary did it by the books, and Holy Shire is at least passable without doing very much outside the formula.
I guess what stands out to me is that I don’t hate it. I should. My objective analysis is this: that it’s a simplistic heavy/power metal album that drags along at nearly the same pace for the whole record, while assaulting my ears with fairly obnoxious vocals and syrupy vibratos with way too much quiver. But peeling that back, I’m entertained because, yes, it is catchy. The instrumental sections are fairly engaging, with a lot going on to build some pretty solid, catchy melodies. Even when the vocals are so syrupy and quivering, I’m still sort of enjoying it, maybe even as a guilty pleasure. So I’m torn between giving it credit more appropriate to its merits and just stamping it with how I feel. It’ll land somewhere in between, but that’s why all numerical scores have a defacto, “Your mileage will vary,” disclaimer,
If you’re into that symphonic/folkish power metal mix, and especially if you’re a fan of fantasy concept albums, this is probably worth checking out. I wouldn’t call it top shelf, or even middle shelf. This is stocked above Kamchatka and Five O’Clock, but below Burnett’s in this convenience store shelf of “still gets the job done, but man you can do better.” Holy Shire can do a fine job keeping you somewhat interested through a bunch of heavy, mid-tempo power metal, but if I’m honest, that “Greensleeves” cover is probably my favorite part of the record, and that’s not right.
3.0 // 5
Black Wind Retraction Special: Apparently, there is NOT a male singer on this record, but rather two female singers. One of them REALLY sounds like a dude though. Or, maybe sounds like both? It’s really kind of hard to tell from the music video, and the band’s various biographies are of no help whatsoever. Also, “bottom of the barrel fantasy cliches” apparently doesn’t make the cut of a ‘concept album.’ I kinda took a shot on the dark there because I just really didn’t want to subject myself to paying attention to the lyrics. Analysis stands though. Sugary enough to kill a diabetic, lots of flaws, probably file it under “guilty pleasures”