Despite numerous recommendations from plenty of people smarter than I, reading any Tolkien beyond some excerpts has eluded me. I have nothing against the man or fantasy in general, but tend to get caught up reading other things instead. So perhaps it’s inexperience or a biased understanding of the Lord of the Rings universe by playing Shadow of Mordor almost pathologically when that came out, but in Round Two of reviewing Italy’s Wind Rose I noticed something that wasn’t present in their Wardens of the West Wind success: this sounds like what I’d imagine Middle Earth metal would.

I’m not entirely sure what spurred on this odd and certainly not profound insight, but I can’t escape it. Perhaps it’s more directed towards non-futuristic, almost medieval fantasy worlds in general, but Stonehymn, Wind Rose’s latest, constantly evokes nature, swords, courage in battle, and a lively court and/or an old tavern in my mind. This is likely due to the conscious focus on more folk and less Pyramaze-y power that populated Wardens. This shows in the following ways: first, a much greater focus on vocal harmonies; second, greater emphasis on instruments that aren’t the guitars and bass, such as keys, choirs, flutes and the like; and third, what comes across as a conscious effort to make a soundtrack to a mental picture the band is trying to paint for us instead of a collection of high-quality standalone power metal tunes as Wardens was.

The above goes a long way in explaining why Stonehymn took so long to grow on me, and, unfortunately for my bosses, took me so long to write about. There are still Wintersun similarities here, along with Blind Guardian, but it’s basically all Time I and the most bombastic Night at the Opera and Beyond the Red Mirror types of thing now, and Wind Rose happens to be rather adept at making this style work. “Fallen Timbers” is a lively jaunt that remains engaging and rather thrilling all the way through, even evoking Alestorm with a well-placed accordion bit in its middle1. This is one example of many, as the arrangements here are all, by and large, strong and cohesive. Francesco Cavalieri has also improved his vocal range, adding an additional depth to the songs that may not have been possible on Wardens. Undiluted metal moments, such as the huge but brief melo-death riff that concludes “The Wolves’ Call,” really shine through thanks to the usual avoidance of such things, making them special highlights in their own right.

On first, second, or even third listen, Stonehymn can come across exhausting. Nearly fifty minutes long, it embraces musical maximalism for nearly its entire duration, and has almost no musical emotion save conquest and exuberance. Naturally, this leads to a lack of significant climaxes, because of little buildup overall. Even the breaks in the action, such as those in “The Returning Race,” feature layers of acoustic guitar, keys, and harmonized vocals. This is rich and dense music, and apart from the odd part here or there is enthralling while it’s playing but much harder to recall after the fact. This is not a knock against Wind Rose’s songwriting, but rather pointing out the lamentable but salient observation that nothing truly stands out as exceptional here, nor forces me to hit rewind and replay something phenomenal.

Stonehymn is a different record than Wardens in some crucial ways, but in terms of quality is essentially a side-step for Wind Rose. The band had a worthwhile vision and succeeded in achieving it, and while this vision certainly isn’t for everyone, it’s worth hearing if anything I wrote herein tickled your fancy. This is not a record to be taken in pieces, and requires some time and attention to enjoy. The production is clean, clear, and focuses on the vocals and other instruments, putting the more metallic elements more to the back not unlike Time I. While not possessing the same amount of replay value as Wardens, Stonehymn is an offering of merit that will please its intended audience, which as I gather is people who want a melodic, folky power metal record that has more elements of a soundtrack than a conventional metal album.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Inner Wound Records
Websites: windroseofficial.com | facebook.com/windroseofficial
Releases Worldwide: May 26th, 2017

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  1. You have serious issues with Ale. – Steel

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  • VikingSchism

    I see Blind Guardian and Alestorm mentioned. I’m a simple man, and this makes me want to listen

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Blind Guardian, Alestorm, and mead!
      These are the things that a pirate needs!

      • Leave the galley.

        • Monsterth Goatom

          K, I’m off to a land far to the south where I go to have some fun…

          • VikingSchism

            Where the cactus grow?

          • Monsterth Goatom

            Oh yea, and then there’s this bitchin’ donkey show…

          • VikingSchism

            I hear the alcohol is free, the party lasts all through the night and the alcohol is free

          • Nag Dammit

            There’s a keytar run in there somewhere I think.

  • k1

    cheese on the ice cake. Slide.

  • rumour_control

    I’m in the middle of Two Towers, after also giving the old dog the cold shoulder for years. Wonderful world-building this little Rings tome. Tolkien is great fun, and definitely a completely different experience than the films (not that Jackson hiccuped at all; he just presented a visceral vision from his own POV, and, hey…Andy Serkis).

  • Mark

    The guys are too skinny for that armour xD

    • Nag Dammit

      Clearly the armour budget didn’t extend to the ever expendable keyboard player and the drummer is so mental he thinks that armour is for posers.

      • Mollusc

        They’ve probably got rings of power, so to speak.

        • Nag Dammit

          Yep, silly me. Totally forgot about the class selection process all new middle earth-core bands must go through. These guys obviously maxed out their magic and intelligence and didn’t have enough XP left for armour or weapons.

          • Mollusc

            Brilliant, I hadn’t thought about it that deeply, I just meant they had bad wind haha

          • Nag Dammit

            I obviously thought about it too much. Haha

          • Mollusc

            Nah, was a good response. I couldn’t not ‘fess up to my toilet humour.

  • aaron bergman

    This is what Jack Black would play at the School of Rock prom.

  • Brent Johnson

    The problem with schtick bands is, well, the schtick. I love all things middle earth but think the music it needed was best done and finished by aforementioned Blind Guardian.

  • Mollusc

    Funny how wearing all that armour makes them 100% more likely to get beaten up. This sounds exactly like Alestorm but without the Scottish accents.

    • FelixtheMetalcat

      No, Alestorm sounds 100% better than this….

      • Mollusc

        Fair enough! I like Alestorm’s sense of humour, but the underlying music seems to be lacking RIIIFFFFS in both…

  • Thatguy

    Band photo is so cheesy that the music would have to be great for me not to mock.

    What do we get? A jolly sing-along. This is terrible, Diabolus. A 3.0? Surely you jest.

    • Prostidude

      Between this and the Alestorm review you’d actually start that this site has been infected by a non-cynical​, upbeat atmosphere.

      • Thatguy

        Fuck that!

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      To be fair, the embed is in the bottom tier of the record. Try “The Wolve’s Call” for a better representation, it has a cheesy video too. I used this one solely because it was the one the band put out right before released.

      • Thatguy

        Thanks, Diabolus, but I don’t think I will.

      • HeavyMetalHamster

        I was ok with it until the viking barbershop quartet started singing in rounds.

    • FelixtheMetalcat

      Wow, I knew the band was quite cheesy but this is a bit too strong for me. I’ll gladly take anything Alestorm over this as they just seem far better at it.

  • Choodi

    World of Warcraft the Musical?

  • FutureBeyondSatan

    The band name would better represent a group of 14 year old girls with a passion for romantic novels.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    While this is not bad, I disagree with the Blind Guardian comparisons… Blind Guardian totally mops the floor with this!

  • Elton Chagas

    What kind of performatic dancing is this semi-bald guy doing?

    HEYA HEYA HO HEYA HEYA HEYA HO! (while punching the air)

    Damn… I laughed a lot!

  • Thank for the review! :D
    Unfortunatly I see more fake account haters than musicians over here, no comments about the songwriting or the songs, only garbage about the armors and shallow stuff…
    It’s not a problem for us if you’ll play in your bedroom and comment like this for the rest of your life, we are determinated to continue and kick ass all over the world.

    Peace :)