France’s Silver Wind seems to be a pretty low-profile act, despite having formed (according to the label’s press release) in 2005. Legion Of The Exiled is the band’s first full-length, and an evident stepping stone from 2013’s Fight For Glory EP – which is regurgitated in its entirety (three songs) here. Comparisons of the band’s inceptive sound to Hammerfall and Enforcer incited some mild interest in me, but clones of this style are not exactly hard to find, and in my experience, the doppelgangers are almost invariably somewhat sloppy and/or without much novelty to them. The band’s logo is appropriately 80’s derived, and the cover artwork is kind of nifty…if you’re into poorly defensible island fortresses and shoddy road planning. All right, so maybe there’s not a lot going for Silver Wind on the way in, but I’ve been stunned before.
The title track really reminds me much more of a budget Running Wild imitation than anything else, and that comparison continues repeatedly throughout the album, to be heard most frequently in the guitar leads and very simplistically syllabic, Germanic-sounding choruses. However, the songs are paced more like Hammerfall’s earlier works, but without the anthemic choruses and considerably better chops (here’s something you don’t hear me say very often) of Joacim Cans. There are a few refrains here that, were the lyrics and attitude less ridiculous, might be downright shout-worthy (“Legion of the Exiled,” “Lord of the Last Rampart”), but it’s with ample frustration that I announce the close of my even pseudo-positive comments about this recording, and move onto my numerous points of irritation.
First of all, while to a certain extent this is slap-em’-on-the-back 80’s style heavy metal of the variety where one expects no innovation, studio shine, or even virtuosity, the execution is bland, bland, bland. The band leans heavily on layered vocals for choruses, which works fine, but when lead singer Antoine Volat reaches into his high range, he sounds like a terribly-accented, inexpert version of Mikael Dahl (Crystal Eyes) in a way that is not at all endearing. Secondly, the guitars, which occasionally offer some redeeming leads, are very distant and seemingly unimportant to the sound as a whole – buried in the background to an extent which utterly confounds me. Finally, there are a couple songs here which are downright embarrassing. “Steel Against Steel,” for example, is an absolutely cringe-worthy affair, from its sterile lyricism to the slipshod vocal delivery which concludes every chorus in a bizarrely grotesque breathy grunt.
In spite of the comparisons that both I and the label have made to established metal acts, there’s really very little on Legion of the Exiled to justify any favorable analogy. Virtually every element here is insipid almost to the point of being offensive. Riffs are virtually nonexistent, and even Silver Wind’s strongest work (which, if you ask me, is definitively “Lord of the Last Rampart”) is a hollow attempt to ape the band’s heroes. If you’re going to carry out metal of this sort, you’re really marketing nostalgia and rough-cut charm via pure energy and fundamentals performed so well that they appeal to the grizzled veterans of the scene. Silver Wind performs questionably on the latter point, but certainly doesn’t have the former.
Unless you’re a big traditional heavy metal buff and seeker of all things new within the niche, a single listen should be enough to convince you to give this one a skip. While I’d have dismissed this as dull at first blush, numerous listens have led to excruciating levels of boredom and thoughts of “seriously, I could be listening to literally anything else.” Leave this one on the shelf, it’s a dreadful snore.