rating icon 7 / 10

Track listing:

01. Of War and Sorrow
02. Army of Stone
03. Tales of War
04. Fellows of the Hammer
05. Together We Rise
06. Gates of Ekrund
07. One Last Day
08. The Battle of the Five Armies
09. I Am the Mountain
10. Tomorrow Has Come

WIND ROSE have found a sweet spot. Somewhere between the pristine, progressive power metal of their early days, the hangover-inducing frivolity of prime folk metal and the heads-down, no-nonsense classicism of GRAVE DIGGER, these Italians have struck upon a formula that practically comes with a free copy of "Lord of the Rings" and a cardboard axe attached. "Warfront" is the band's fifth full-length album, and their second for Napalm Records. Much like its predecessor, 2019's "Wintersaga", the new material sounds huge and precision-tooled, with everything from laudably punchy kick-drums to all manner of peripheral percussive embellishments leaping from the speakers with maximum zinginess. None of that would count for much if the songs were duds, of course, but WIND ROSE have much more than re-purposed cliches at their disposal.

These songs are all rooted in the ever-fertile soil of epic fantasy, and from thunderous kick-off "Of War and Sorrow" to "Tomorrow Has Come"'s tear-stained tour-de-force, there is no mistaking a strong sense of collective heroism: it is almost as if the band themselves are singing and playing from direct sword-wielding experience. Weirdly, then, WIND ROSE seem to be one of the more believable bands to set up shop in this colorful corner of the metal world. "Fellows of the Hammer" offers a rousing mixture of dark symphonic metal and breezy, wistful melodic hooks, with frontman Francesco Cavalieri seemingly backed up by a cast of heavily armed thousands. In less capable hands, songs like this can often seem a bit too cartoonish for their own good, WIND ROSE's Tolkien fixation seems perfectly fitting for a band that reportedly comprises five "dwarven warriors." Given how short a surprising amount of rock stars actually are, it's not hard to believe.

Pleasingly, "Warfront" sustains its boisterous demeanor from beginning to end. WIND ROSE show a few signs of a more adventurous band that may reveal itself on future records: "The Battle of the Five Armies" and "I Am the Mountain" both take a more expansive and noticeably heavier approach to armor-plated swashbuckling, and the Italians' gift for subtly complex arrangements truly shines, albeit while being slightly overshadowed by colossal, fists-in-the-air tunes at all times. In particular, "The Battle of the Five Armies" is a magnificently dramatic affair, with echoes of both BLIND GUARDIAN and SABATON, and some ingenious layering of Cavalieri's vocals. "Tomorrow Has Come" provides a rather gorgeous, pathos-sodden finale, and all is well in the (fantasy) world.

Author: Dom Lawson
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