Whyzdom – Of Wonders and Wars Review

The time has come for this young(ish) sponge to return to his roots—bombastic, cheesy symphonic metal helmed by a classically trained soprano. This genre of metal used to be my absolute favorite for many of the same reasons people lambast it today, up to and including the extreme lactose concentration, countless layers of orchestration, and the wall of sound production that so easily overwhelms the neurally frail. I craved the feeling of my entire brain lighting up, desperate to keep up with the immense amount of stimuli bombarding it at once. Now on their fifth full-length album entitled Of Wonders and Wars, France’s Whyzdom attempt to recreate that same firework exhibit inside my nervous system that I so voraciously hunted back in the early days of my metalheadhood.

Amazingly, Of Wonders and Wars doesn’t introduce itself with a superfluous instrumental. In fact, there aren’t any instrumentals of any kind on Of Wonders and Wars, which is a small miracle in and of itself. However, dense folds of orchestration express in full force just as you’d expect, along with heavily accented yet coherent operatics, chugging riffs and occasional pinch harmonics that call to mind the earliest records in the genre. For those who have no tolerance for cheese, feel free to stop reading because there is nothing you can digest here. This is rich, gooey fondue the potency for which is enough to fatally clog arteries of the largest and healthiest of blue whales.

Unfortunately, very little of the songwriting here is strong enough to justify these elevated levels of bombast. Opener “Wanderers and Dreamers” makes that perfectly clear. While the bulk of the overloaded track is inoffensive enough, the verses and chorus are awkward, stepping all over the music’s toes. “Ariadne” has similar woes, except this time it’s the staggering choirs that cause me to cringe my back in twain. For nearly thirty minutes, Of Wonders and Wars forces unto its audience undercooked transitions and reckless tempo changes, presumably in an effort to sound progressive or intellectual. In reality, it only gives the impression of pretension without any substance to back it up. To make matters worse, the record clocks in at just over an hour. As a result, motivating myself to spin Of Wonders and Wars enough to generate this review was nothing short of a chore.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. I found several aspects of Whyzdom‘s latest opus to be quite enjoyable. Though she isn’t generally provided the best material, Marie Mac Leod sports a powerful and technically proficient voice. She executes a wide range of techniques from poppy sweetness to imperial belts, wielding each comfortably and confidently. On the musical front, Whyzdom wrote some decent cuts here, especially the beautifully arranged ballad “Touch the Sky,” the deceivingly catchy “War,” and album highlight “The Final Collapse.” The entire back half of Of Wonders and Wars is twice as strong as the first half, actually, and the reason is simple—the band almost entirely abandons the ostentatious and overwrought songwriting miscalculations cluttering the first half. Furthermore, the record sounds pretty damn good, with good guitar tones and a surprisingly beefy low end to give everything a satisfying heft. It still falls short in light of the sheer amount of instrumentation that suffocates under the weight of digital compression, but everything is mixed nicely in the space given nonetheless.

Whyzdom has potential, with enough experience and talent on hand to deliver something worth a full recommendation. However, they have much tightening up to do before they realize that potential to the fullest. Their current songs are too long and try too hard to sound more sophisticated than they need to be to find success. Choruses often lack strong hooks and choirs stumble in and out of songs without rhyme or rhythm. While mixed well relative to the standard, the instruments would have so much more impact in a less compacted space. It’s up to Whyzdom to make these improvements for their sixth album, and maybe then they’ll remind me why I used to love this stuff so deeply back in the day.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Scarlet Records
Websites: whyzdom.org | facebook.com/WHYZDOMproject
Releases Worldwide: September 17th, 2021

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