Wind Rose – Wardens Of The West Wind
Reviewed By Kevin Hathaway
Italy has been very hit or miss recently as far as producing quality power metal. Even the once-mighty Rhapsody of Fire was witnessed plummeting to shameful depths of mediocrity with Dark Wings Of Steel, not to mention other middling acts like Blindside Symphony and Astral Domine plaguing the scene.
*BWM facts: I mention Astral Domine in 3 out of 4 reviews I write, possibly as a means of antagonizing Dan while he proofreads these reviews. I’m not sure why I do this, but it’s all in good fun, right Dan?
(Dan is heard crying in the corner as he lies in the fetal position. Words manage to slip through the tears: “Please, no more Fabio Lione guest spots… Please…”)
Oh… Um, anyway, where was I going with this? Ah yes, Italy! In spite of the creative stagnation throughout the country as of late, a few Italian power metal bands still manage to capture our ears here at BWM – like Ancient Bards or last year’s debuts from Lionsoul and Tezza F. In 2012, another seeming Rhapsody clone burst onto the scene by the name of Wind Rose with its debut Shadows Over Lothadruin. It was pretty easy to dismiss them on the surface. Another freaking Felipe Machado Franco cover, cheesy interludes out the ying-yang, and cliché song titles on another high-fantasy concept album, but once one got past all that, the music was surprisingly proggy, and actually pretty decent. Wind Rose was hardly the best symphonic power/prog metal band to debut that year, let alone ever, but I could hear a lot of untapped potential in these young bucks. With that, I am happy to report that Wind Rose’s sophomore album, Wardens Of The West Wind, due out in February of next year, realizes this potential and propels the band to being top contenders for heirs to Rhapsody (of Fire)’s throne. Hell, Wind Rose are crashing the ceremony where Rhapsody are handing the crown off to Ancient Bards and decapitating both of them, taking the crown for itself. A bold claim? Perhaps, but not an unfounded one. (also, headless or not, I would still wreck Sara Squadrani. Just saying)
Right out of the gate, a lot of problems from the debut are remedied. There are only two intros/interludes compared to the merciless seven on Shadows Over Lothadruin. Francesco Calavieri’s vocals have also improved ten-fold, putting forth tons more power and confidence than before. I almost can’t believe it’s even the same singer. The songs are far more exciting and memorable. It’s like the boys in Wind Rose did a meticulous study after the first album to find out what makes some symphonic power metal bands work and others not, and Wardens Of The West Wind is the culmination of their research. New ground isn’t being broken, but unlike other bands of their ilk, Wind Rose now understands what works and what doesn’t. There are no cheesy ballads and barely even any mid-paced songs. There are no 15-minute epics forced at the end of the album. There are lots of bombastic choirs, but they rarely overshadow the performance of the main singer. Hooks upon hooks upon hooks grace your ears, from the juicy melodies of “The Breed Of Durin” to the triumphant chanting in “Spartacus.” Honestly, aside from the interludes, there isn’t a bad song here, or even one of lesser quality than the others. They’re all great.
There is such vigor and heart here which makes the album play out like a love letter to the power metal genre, while at the same time decimating the competition. Wardens Of The West Wind may not be a game-changer, but the craft has been nearly perfected here and simply must be heard by anyone who calls themselves a European power metal fan. Not only is Wardens Of The West Wind a huge improvement upon its predecessor, but is an immediate frontrunner for AOTY for 2015. And for a year that already contains Orden Ogan, Angra, Blind Guardian, Vexillum, and promises many more (including both incarnations of Rhapsody), that’s saying a lot, especially considering that Wind Rose is only on its second release. No more excuses. Get this, right now.
4.5 // 5