Hungarian power metal sages Wisdom continue to spin the tale of the adventures of the mysterious figure “Wiseman” on their third full-length album Marching for Liberty. The Budapest-based quintet favor power metal at its most grand and bombastic, in the style of Rhapsody of Fire and Dragonforce, with the symphonic leanings of Nightwish or Stratovarius. Those who favor an understated or reserved interpretation of power metal should look elsewhere, as Marching For Liberty is an example of the genre with hyper-drive engines fully engaged.
A keystone of any power metal record that leans so heavily towards the theatrical is going to be the vocals, and singer Gabor Nagy is more than able to handle the challenge. His range and power are consistently impressive, and he commits fully to the needs to the song, no matter how dramatic and, in places, overwrought. His upper range never sounds strained, retaining a suppleness and delicacy no matter how high he soars, while his deeper vocals have great resonance and richness. He does an excellent job of selling the narrative of Marching for Liberty, and helps maintain a sense of suspended disbelief much longer than would be possible otherwise.
The mix, and especially with regards to Nagy’s vocals, represents a significant improvement over their last record, Judas. Whereas before Nagy’s vocals were made the centerpiece of the record to its detriment, obscuring the rest of the instrumentation, on Marching for Liberty the mix is much more balanced. His voice is still unquestionably the jewel in a metallic setting, but now we get a sense of the purity and complexity of the rest of the instruments as well.
The record unfolds at a breathless gallop, driven forward by powerful bass-lines and swooping ecstatic dueling guitars. The long guitar runs push and parry and glitter around each other, the sonic equivalent of fencing. Throughout Marching for Liberty, I kept getting the impression that this much drama and sustained intensity would have been a hell of a lot of fun to play, and that sense of joy pervades the record.
So much high drama, however, struggles to be sustained, and like many a D&D campaign with an overenthusiastic DM, the fever pitch eventually wears thin. There is so much drama, so much intensity in Marching for Liberty that its innate ridiculousness eventually wears through the entertainment value. The record is great in smaller doses, when a stomping, epic battle anthem like “War of Angels” or a sweeping, cinematic fantasy like “Take Me To Neverland” is exactly what you need. Taken together, it can be a bit overwhelming.
It also needs to be said that Marching for Liberty is not a wildly innovative album in terms of song structures or sonic composition. While undeniably passionate and well-executed, it is generally derivative of many other power metal bands, and German power metal in particular. While it’s not a great musical sin to write a record that is not a watershed moment in the genre, Marching for Liberty can veer towards sounding too familiar here and there.
While in terms of the musical balance of the record, Wisdom may have taken a step in the right direction in terms of restraint, in terms of conceptual framework and writing them are as baroque and theatrical in their preferences as ever. It’s a difficult balance to strike, being forever on exactly the right side of being completely ridiculous, and while they’ve stayed perched precariously on that tightrope they’re certainly wobbling now more than ever. On their next record, it will be interesting to see whether they pull back slightly, and aim for a slightly more conservative style of songwriting and performance, or whether they shrug and swan dive right into the operatic and over-the-top ocean. Either way, the results will be entertaining.