Since 2009, Wind Rose, from Pisa, Italy have been releasing their take on symphonic metal. The first ep from the band was released in 2010 and followed up in 2012 with their debut full length Shadows over Lothadruin. In 2013 they toured Europe supporting Wintersun, Finntroll, and Epica and followed that up being part of folk-metal legends Eluveitie’s Origins European Tour, exposing their sound to even wider audiences. Later that year the band released their second full length Wardens of the West Wind and supported Ensiferum on their One Man Army European tour. 2017 has seen the band sign with Inner Wound Recordings and release their third album Stonehymn.
As one might expect, the album opens with an instrumental that sets the tone for the album. In this case, it’s folk, symphonic metal with a bit of Celtic feel to it. “Distant Battlefields” predictably blends right into the first real track on the album “Dance of Fire”. The first thing one can’t help but notice is the deep, full, gang vocals that sound as if there was a large chorus. Unfortunately, the music is a bit buried in the mix behind the vocals and keyboards as there is some good support from the drums and guitars to help carry the songs along. As the song progresses, the listener will also notice they approach epic in terms of length as well with most over six minutes long.
By the second song, “Under the Stone” it is very clear that the amazing vocals on this album will be one of the strengths. Francesco Cavalieri’s voice is smooth and yet forceful at times and very strong throughout, exactly what one would imagine the ideal voice for epic symphonic folk would be. Even more impressive though are the gang vocals which are deep and full and convey an immense amount of energy and emotion. The chorus and other gang vocal parts are the kind you want to stand up and shout along with. The guitars in “Under the Stone” are a bit more present than in the first tracks but still rather subdued overall in the mix.
“To Erebor” is up next and starts out with traditional instruments and keyboards and some of that epic chanting mentioned before, all set to what feels like an ancient rhythm that would be good as a marching song and one can envision a virtual army marching along through the countryside to Erebor or some other destination. The melodies in the song are very catchy and one can’t help but start moving with the music. As with many of the songs, in sections where other bands might throw in a guitar solo or two, Wind Rose chooses to shift to quieter interludes often featuring traditional instruments., and given the strength of the songwriting this works very well.
“Returning Race” changes the formula up a bit and starts out primarily with acoustic instruments and the overall quieter nature highlights the strength of Francesco Cavalieri’s voice in this genre as the atmosphere in the beginning is one of him perhaps sitting around a fire telling an epic tale. The song itself is the longest on the album and shows some complex arrangements as it twists and turns, again largely driven by the epic vocals that I can’t say enough about as they really defy description due to their larger than life feel and sound.
Following a brief instrumental and the calmer first single “The Wolves Call” is my favorite track on the album, “Fallen Timbers”. A complex percussion and string rhythm open up the song and the speed is rather quick from the start. Guitars come in with a machine gun like riff to provide some texture before the vocals. The vocals again are amazing as Francesco Cavalieri starts out with a staccato-like cadence which builds and gets louder to the point there is a faint hint of raggedness in the normally clean tone. Verses begin with just him and then as he gets louder for the second section the gang vocals come in to add another dimension.
Wind Rose have really delivered a unique metal album, one in which the normal guitars and drums take a minor role to the vocals, traditional instruments, and keyboards, which is something that could likely only work in symphonic metal of some variety. Adding in the folk elements to this mix, further raises the listener’s interest and I for one who normally gets annoyed when the guitars and drums take a secondary role, found myself enjoying the experience here immensely. Due to the strength of the vocals and the folk metal nature of the album, this is one that could easily draw in fans that are not big into metal while at the same time has an unmistakably metal feel to it that will appeal to metalheads.
Written by John Jackson
“Stonehymn” track listing
01. Distant Battlefields
02. Dance of Fire
03. Under the Stone
04. To Erebor
05. The Returning Race
06. The Animist
07. The Wolves’ Call
08. Fallen Timbers
09. The Eyes of the Mountain
Francesco Cavalieri – Vocals
Claudio Falconcini – Guitars
Federico Meranda – Keyboards
Daniele Visconti – Drums
Cristiano Bertocchi – Bass
“Shadows over Lothadruin” (2012)
“Wardens of the West Wind” (2015)
Record Label: Inner Wound Recordings, May 2017
Video for ‘To Erebor’
Lyric video for ‘The Wolves Call’