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Neoclassical Symphonic Italian Power Metal - 80%

TheStormIRide, August 31st, 2012

Italy has a long standing tradition of producing its own certain brand of power metal that is more distinguishable than that of any other country. Wind Rose continues this tradition with an album inspired by the symphonic, neoclassical tendencies of Rhapsody of Fire, Kaledon, Thy Majestie and others. Their debut album, “Shadows Over Lothadruin”, shows the band heading straight for the styles of the aforementioned bands, while still managing to sound somewhat original by incorporating outside influences.

The base of Wind Rose's music is neoclassical power metal in the vein of Yngwie Malmsteen, and all of his clones, mixed with the symphonic touches of Rhapsody and the like. A wall of orchestration is layered behind the music and does not let up until the album is over. “Shadows Over Lothadruin” has all of the elements fans of this genre want, but Wind Rose has a tendency to go over the top with the cheese factor.

The songs range from AOR-esque ballads to blazing, riff heavy power metal. The faster songs show the guitars with a crunchy tone and some stellar riff work, including sweeping arpeggios that sound straight out of Luca Turilli's song book. Some groove elements are thrown in with Nevermore-ish technical chugging during breaks and behind solos. The solos themselves are amazing, following the Malmsteen school of neoclassical shredding, without taking away from the grandiose feel of the orchestrations and symphonic elements. The drums plod along, ranging from double bass running during fast sections to a laid back, hard rock style on the slower sections. There are some interesting rolls and fills, but the drumming doesn't stand out enough to need further detail.

The orchestration sounds very similar to the backing of Rhapsody and Thy Majestie, with constant keyboard accompaniment. The slower sections show some classical piano work, with lush string inspired orchestrations still in the background. The faster sections see a few Warmen or Stratovarius styled keyboard verses guitar solo sections, sounding a little out of place and futuristic beside the medieval inspired theme and orchestration.

While, Wind Rose doesn't go over the top with cinematic, movie score sounding sections, they do have the Rhapsody styled interludes and cringe induced narrative sections. Anyone familiar with the Sir Jay Lansford era of narration on Rhapsody should not be surprised here, but if you're not then imagine the most socially awkward person you've ever met and then ask them to perform a monologue in front of a crowd: that's pretty much the feeling that the interludes give. Although they help to keep the “medieval” theme going, they are extremely cringe worthy. Main example, everyone sounds straight out of medieval England until the protagonist says “Thanks me lord” like a freaking third grader.

Wind Rose incorporates some folk elements into their repertoire as well. There are a few flute lines that sound very Jethro Tull inspired with their poppy gait. The flute sections come across as extremely cheesy and out of place. It's nice to hear something different, but it seems like the band just said, “Hey, let's throw some flute in!” and then randomly placed sections on a few songs. Fortunately the excellent guitar work mirrors most of the flute lines and keeps everything tied into the realm of heavier things.

Vocally, Wind Rose falls somewhere between Goran Edmond era Malmsteen, At Vance and Fabio Lione of Rhapsody. The vocals are mostly in the mid to high range and the singer manages to stay away from the goofy accents that plague a lot other Italian power metal acts. This isn't the strongest vocal performance of the year, but the singer is capable of performing with no major, notable flaws.

The production is utterly fantastic, as every instrument is crisp and clear. The guitars retain a dynamic punch during heavier sections and during the slower sections every note rings clear. Every other instrument has its proper place in the mix, including vocals. The flute is a little high in the mix when it comes in, but, thankfully, its only sporadically placed in the album. Former bass player, Cristiano Bertocchi (Vision Divine, Labyrinth), produced “Shadows Over Lothadruin” and did one hell of a job.

Wind Rose have created a listenable symphonic, neoclassical power metal album that fans of Italian power metal will love. Production values, musicianship and song writing make this an enjoyable listen. “Shadows Over Lothadruin” doesn't bring anything new to the field, but shows Wind Rose will be a force to be reckoned with in the future. Recommended to fans of neoclassical metal and symphonic power metal, as long as you don't mind a cup of cheese on the side.

Written for The Metal Observer: