Even as this year begins to look like an even shittier version of 2020, there are always opportunities to be transported away to more glittering, grandiose and welcoming realms. Aspiring purveyors of a very Italian strain of symphonic power metal, WINTERAGE may yet lack the incisive compositional flair to propel them to the top of the bombastic tree, but "The Inheritance Of Beauty" is an assured and enormously promising effort. The follow-up to 2015's good-but-not-great "The Harmonic Passage", this crackles with renewed passion and pomp, as if the Genoa quintet have finally clicked into the gear their earlier music only hinted at.
Graced with a strong, if slightly bass-starved production, these songs belong firmly in the niche box marked "symphonic power metal," eschewing any nods to modernity in favor of a sound that is guaranteed to send fans of NIGHTWISH, SONATA ARCTICA and RHAPSODY into a state of profound bliss. After a sweetly sumptuous "Overture", the euphoric rush of the title track and the more succinct grandeur of "The Wisdom Of Us" re-establish the essence of WINTERAGE's sound, with theatricality and twinkly eyed romance firmly at the forefront throughout, on top of laudable flurries of orchestral embellishment. Students of this stuff may struggle to hear anything new in all of this, of course, but the likes of "Orpheus And Eurydice" and "Chain Of Heaven" are plainly superior, latter-day examples of the form. Meanwhile, "The Mutineers" delivers comically huge quantities of both swash and buckle.
It may be the nature of a band of inveterate storytellers that "The Inheritance Of Beauty" canters enthusiastically towards a big, fat crescendo. In truth, the album's last three songs are its best by some margin: "Le Morte Di Venere" is a wonderfully evocative, operatic ballad with a broad prog streak; "Oblivion Day" is simply the best flat-out metal song WINTERAGE have conjured to date; and closing epic "The Amazing Toymaker" is so inventive, unpredictable and fit-to-burst with brilliant and bizarre ideas, that listeners may feel slightly cheated that the Italians' kept their eccentricity entirely under wraps for the preceding 45 minutes. Nonetheless, it's an admirably over-the-top conclusion to a record that bulges with future promise, while adhering rigidly to a formula that is probably always going to be worth revisiting, if only for light relief, in real-life times of trial.