Wind Rose – Shadows Over Lothadruin
More symphonic power metal from Italy and to be honest, I love it. This is probably one of the best debut albums I have heard, my favorite debut of all time being Rhapsody’s Legendary Tales, followed up by Solar Fragment’s Fragment Of The Sun. What’s intriguing about Shadows Over Lothadruin is that it manages to combine many elements and influences from other bands and really make them work together. For instance; I can hear the Rhapsody (Of Fire) influence a mile away, which is not surprising considering their country of origin. I can also hear a good amount of Dragonland influence which leads me to believe that these guys really enjoyed Under The Grey Banner. But then I take a look at the ballads, and I not only hear good tunes (I’m not usually a huge fan of power metal ballads), but I hear the best thing that could ever happen to a ballad in this genre; I hear Symphony X influence. Symphony X is great at writing ballads and they usually stretch them out, making them mini epics as well. Think of Wind Rose as Dragonland meets Symphony X in a way, and they manage to do this in fairly spectacular fashion; I mainly point out the Symphony X influence because the song “Majesty” is VERY reminiscent of “The Accolade”, but in a way that doesn’t borrow too heavily.
This band does so much right, and the instrumental side of this is great. The solos are fun and fast, the keyboards add great atmospheric effect, and the vocals are good if a little…whiny in a couple of places (mainly in “Oath To Betray”). There’s some really good headbanging songs featured with “The Endless Prophecy”, “Oath To Betray”, and “The Fourth Vanguard”, and then there’s some celtic-styled metal in songs like “Siderion” and “Close To The End”. These two songs in particular are what really remind me of Dragonland. “Siderion” especially reminds me of “Lady Of Goldenwood” or “Tempest”. In fact, much of the album reminds me of Under The Grey Banner, which in my books is very high praise. However, there is one enormous difference that sets them apart: this album is not catchy at all. There are hardly any vocal lines that I remember after hearing the album three times through. There is some great and memorable riffing and soloing in this, but the lyrical melodies, while being well written, just aren’t memorable. The best example of this is the (surprise, surprise) closing epic, “Close To The End”.
Basically, there isn’t a whole lot to keep me coming back to this album. The musicality here is unmistakable, and there is some fantastic metal in this. The keyboards in particular are very tastefully composed and represent one of the more remarkable parts of the album. I also want to comment again on the ballads, since I am always incredibly critical of them, and they can ruin an album for me. Fortunately in this case they’re pretty good. “Moontear Sanctuary” is actually a very good power ballad that manages to stay varied and interesting enough to be more than fair as far as such songs go; the acoustic section in the middle is my favorite part, and it reminds me a lot of Blind Guardian. “Son Of A Thousand Nights” is probably the weakest link in the album; it’s a little boring, and while it’s not as bad as other power metal ballads out there, it’s not great. “Majesty” is where the Symphony X influence shows itself, and while not strictly a slow song, it’s one of those ballad/epics that I personally love. This is because when most power metal bands write a 6 minute love song it usually just ends up being really boring and annoying, but when they write a 9 minute ballad/epic, they have more room to make it interesting. I would place this song next to “Communion And The Oracle”, “The Accolade” and “The Edge of Forever” (all similar ballad/epics by Symphony X).
Despite the general lack of catchiness, I think this is definitely worth checking out. Despite all its problems, it’s been a very long time since I enjoyed a debut this much. The way this band has combined their influences and turned it into a sound all their own gives me a lot of hope. My personal advice to Wind Rose for their sophomore album would be to stick to a very similar formula, but focus on creating some catchy choruses, because I think this band is capable of writing some true classics. This is a good album and a great debut album, and is definitely worth a look from fans of any band that I’ve mentioned.
Ian’s Rating: 3.75 out of 5