Wuthering Heights // Salt
Rating: 4.0/5.0 —Ale to the Captain!!
Label: Scarlet Records
Websites: wuthering-heights.dk | myspace.com/wutheringheightsofficial
Release Dates: EU: 15.04.2010 | US: 04.27.2010
Well shiver me timbers, it’s a pirate metal concept album! Sure, Running Wild has been doing that since 1987 but can you ever really have enough pirate metal? Yarr, I think not me mateys! So it is with open arms I welcome Salt, the new album by Denmark’s Wuthering Heights. Salt is the band’s fifth release and although they began life in 1997 as a power metal unit, I am not exactly sure how to classify them now. They still have many elements of traditional power metal (fast, galloping rhythms, speedy yet melodic guitar work) but they have evolved into a far more progressive and unorthodox entity over time. So much so in fact, that yours truly couldn’t get into their past two releases because they were just too schizophrenic, scattered and disjointed. I will admit that after my initial few listens to Salt, I had exactly the same problem and was prepared to send this album down to Davey Jones’s Locker with a vicious cannonade along the lines of “ARRRRRR, she blows!!!!” Then slowly, the album’s buccaneer charm began to seep into my head and I started liking it (although at first I only liked parts of it and prepared to say it possessed merely “pieces of great, pieces of great”). However, after two days of soaking in the Salt, I have signed on for this expedition and am ready to pillage and quaff ale right along with Wuthering Heights.
First and foremost it must be noted that Salt requires some initial patience and attention from the listener. This is a BIG album musically and each song has a lot going on. There are enough dynamic shifts and mood changes to make one seasick at first, but unlike earlier works, this album eventually clicks and makes for a wild, adventurous if not totally berserk voyage. Of the nine tracks on offer, only three are fairly direct, linear song constructs (“The Desperate Poet,” “Tears,” “Weather the Storm”). The rest fly all over the treasure map from power metal, to thrash, to Celtic inspired harmony and so on. A perfect example of this running amok musically is “The Mad Sailor.” This oddity begins life as slow sea chanty then quickly changes over to bouncy power metal, then morphs into weird polka music before transitioning to a catchy, swing the beer stein chorus that may have you singing along before you realize it.
Major commendations must be awarded to Nils Patrick Johansson, whose outstanding Dio-on-fire vocals keep this insane rampage from shipwreck upon the rocks of over ambition. This guy is truly a professional metal singer, which should come as no surprise since he also helms Astral Doors, Lion‘s Share and Space Odyssey. Johansson captains this vessel with power and fury and keeps you coming back for more throughout all the madcap, deranged shifts and turns. The rest of Wuthering Heights are equally top-notch musicians and they all shine brightly as Salt blasts along this way and that.
Throughout Salt, the attentive listener can discern elements of Running Wild, mid-period Helstar, Astral Doors, Voivod and countless other metal bands but no one sounds exactly like Wuthering Heights and what they have created here is unique, ambitious, crazy and fun. Do they go too far at times with the lurches and leaps in timing and style? Yes they do indeed and it hurts certain songs because it becomes TOO much to wade through (ex. all sixteen minutes of “Lost at Sea”). Fortunately, this is kept to a minimum and with patience, most of the songs on Salt end up being outrageously fun to listen to.
Whether you love or truly hate power metal, I would strongly recommend listening to Salt. It’s different, unique and inventive and even an Angry Metal Guy can like this and not feel too unmanly. I mean, pirates are really tough and cool right? So grab this album, proudly fly the Jolly Roger and find yourself a comely beer wench or two. Happy raiding you scallywags!