ALBUM REVIEW : WIND ROSE — Stonehymn
Far over the misty mountains cold To dungeons deep and caverns old We must away, ere break of day To claim our long-forgotten gold
Most know the song the dwarves sung on their long journey to reclaim their treasure and home from the dragon Smaug. But what if more of these songs, much like an old ring, found their way back to us, sung by a fierce new axe-wielding company? Entitled Stonehymn, Italian band Wind Rose’s newest effort in bringing Dwarven metal to the masses is - how you say - folkin’ awesome!
At first glance, to anyone who is remotely into Tolkien, this album might appear to be revolving around the Quest of Erebor from a Dwarf’s perspective. With the first video and single titled “To Erebor”, one could hardly think this is anything else. Title aside, this song includes Khuzdul battle cries and mentions the emblems of Durin and the Arkenstone amongst many others, so I’d say ambiguity is out the window on at least this one. The dark but soulful track “The Returning Race” sounds like it was crafted one night by the fire while traveling down the forest path, and the second-to-last song “Fallen Timbers” seems to embody the Battle of Five Armies perfectly, complete with a solemn part sung for a fallen brother (Thorin, is that you?). But I’m going to put aside this idea of conceptualization here. Subtle or not-so-subtle references aside, their newly-revamped Dwarven metal has a fantastical aura that cannot be overlooked.
On this 3rd record, Wind Rose retain the strength from their previous albums but have yet again evolved, this time into something that is what I always imagined a band of rugged Tolkien dwarves would sound like: epic, folky sing-along tunes sung to the marching beat of a hardy work song. This album evokes taverns with flowing ale and roaring fires, long nights in dark forests, and sharpening your axe and your wits before marching to victory or death. The instrumental intro “Distant Battlefields” especially leads me to think of the bird’s eye view of a huge forest below as you would fly over it on an eagle's back. A perfect way to set the scene for the upcoming 45 minutes of this album.
Wind Rose - "To Erebor"
Although singer Francesco Cavalieri’s powerful but smooth voice could carry the lyrics into battle on its own, the ever-present choirs add much richness to the vocals. These near-constant harmonies paired with Celtic-inspired folkish melodies as well as rumbling beats make this album sound like it was crafted in Middle Earth itself. The songs on Stonehymn lean on the longer side, most being over 5 minutes, and the album is peppered with bombastic symphonic parts – all that gives the record a very cinematic feel, not unlike Twilight Force’s Heroes of Mighty Magic. Wind Rose crafted their new release impeccably, producing a very well-rounded sound instead of a convoluted one; a big accomplishment for a metal album going for a film score style of production with massive orchestrations.
They have traded speed for heaviness for this album, all the while preserving the power from previous works. Grinding stomping beats and low-range choirs in the style of Turisas or Heidevolk mingle with swift sections reminiscent of Ensiferum. Like the latter, they have integrated many folk elements into their sound. As well as synth and acoustic guitar, they’ve added plenty of flutes and other traditional instruments to really work the earthy, medieval angle in a way similar to their Italian brethren in Elvenking. The result is astounding.
I could draw many parallels with other bands, but the fact of the matter is that Wind Rose has wrapped all those elements into one single entity, making it their own, and that feat earns them a place on my personal list of the best bands around currently. After several listens of Stonehymn, aside from “To Erebor” my favourite songs seem to remain “Dance of Fire” and “Fallen Timbers”, where Cavalieri’s voice really shines in his single-voice vocals parts, and both the folk and the cinematic feels are at their highest point overall. That’s just my jam though, and this album has the potential to please listeners with vastly different preferences.
Wind Rose's sound on Stonehymn is intense yet refined, catchy but not tacky, bold but charming. This is a record that will surely stand the test of time for the symphonic, power and folk metal crowds alike as elements of all mix and meld flawlessly. With this new album hot off the anvil, as well as their presence at both Bloodstock and Masters of Rock this summer, I have a feeling that Wind Rose will be a band to follow closely in the coming year as they take the world by storm. Khazâd ai-menu!
WIND ROSE — Stonehymn
Release date: May 26, 2017