By Todd Naevestad
Dwarven Metal. Sure, why not. And they’re Italian. Okay then. I was expecting Scottish, but here we are. Here’s the thing about any kind of media “gimmick”: if it lets them create something awesome, than I can’t complain. Goblinomicon has been around for a while and you can’t say that it’s just because of the gimmick. Hell, GWAR is probably one of the most famous gimmick bands and people still love them. And Wind Rose has been around for ten years now, with Wintersaga being their fourth full album. The question now remains: Is this a hidden gem, or should it have stayed buried deep in Khazad-dûm?
I called it a gimmick, but I don’t think that’s truly fair. It’s a gimmick in the same way that Sabaton is a gimmick, or Gloryhammer. Really, it’s about theming, and I will admit, the dwarf-centric, Tolkien inspired style they go for is a lot of fun. They made each song really feel like a dwarven anthem. You can imagine these being sung in taverns or work sites. The fact that all the voice work is a really pleasing bass is great. That rumble adds to the overall delivery. I love the drums across the board. They’ve got this marching quality to them that sets a definitive rhythm you can’t help but get drawn into. What really cements the style for me is the mix of modern and traditional music. We have our expectations of metal with kick drums and heavy guitar, all present, but they lean more into the aspects of tavern music that are less common: woodwinds, lighter strings, squeezebox, etc. The light energy makes the party songs fun and turns the story tracks into an epic adventure.
There’s something to be said about the “meme” track being the best on the album. “Diggy Diggy Hole” is filled to the brim with theme and variation, with imagery and story beats, and is paced so well. It’s a great cover, but also highlights the problems with the whole album. Compared to this song, you can see how homogeneous the other tracks are. They have a similar energy, sticking with that marching war song style that I like, but never really diverging from that, even inside the song. There are few moments where the tension or pace change, either more serene and somber, or active and engaging. We stay at about the same place from beginning to end. Keeping to that theme comes a problem with the choir style of vocals. I do like the way it sounds, but it removes a familiar main sound to attach to. Other bands that have one lead vocalist tend to have a point of familiarity that the listener can latch onto for the adventure ahead. Without it, I felt less engaged by the music. It also kept out any distinction from the vocals and the rhythm. Despite lyrics being attached, the vocals didn’t play a distinct roll in the tracks. I was surrounded on all sides by their style and never really knew what to focus on. There’s nothing memorable in the lyrics or music that made any specific track a favorite of mine.
I like this album well enough. It’s fun and different and gets me into that high fantasy mindset that I enjoy so much. But when it’s done, it doesn’t stick with me. It’s not an album that I find myself coming back to with any real fervor. I think the lasting appeal of this will be niche, for those who just can’t get enough of their Naugrim, Dawi, or Dwemer. Dwarves have a long history in fantasy for a good reason, but this album isn’t the priceless gem they may have been digging for.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Recommendations: Lorenguard, Ancient Bards, Elvenking