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(60 min, Sensory / Locomotive)
TRACK LIST: 1. Demon Desire 5:18 2. Beautifool 5:02 3. The Raven 4:47 4. Faith 8:13 5. Envy 6:41 6. Snow 5:48 7. Sleep 4:45 8. I Shall Not Yield 6:40 9. Reason 0:31 10. Carpe Nostem 7:47 11. Midnight Song 4:32 (b/t) LINEUP: Erik Ravn - guitars; keyboards; vocals Teddy Moller - basses; vocals Patrik Johansson - lead vocals Martin Arepdal - guitars Morten Sorensen - drums Andreas Lindahl - keyboards With: Lisbeth Sagen - violin Tommy Hansen - organ, accordion Niklas Kupper - backing vocals Tina Gunnarson - backing vocals
Prolusion. It won't be exaggerated to say that WUTHERING HEIGHTS is currently one of Denmark's main hopes in Prog-Metal. While I personally haven't reviewed any of the band's creations until now, I have been watching their work since 2000. This new Wuthering Heights release, "The Shadow Cabinet", is their fourth studio album, following "Within" (1999), "To Travel for Evermore" (2001) and "Far From the Madding Crown" (2003). In America all of the group's CDs were released via the Sensory label, while their European partners in this field are different, namely DVS (Holland), Lucretia (Italy) and - currently - Locomotive Records (Spain).
Analysis. Some musicologists define Wuthering Heights' music as Power Metal, whereas this band has nothing to do with that genre. They perform Prog-Metal, although this is a generalized definition of their music whose roots can be found in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWBHM hereinafter) and in the Folk Metal as well. Here is my vision of the prehistory of the formation of their unique style. The followers of Iron Maiden, Germans Helloween began playing NWBHM with maximum speed, having additionally introduced distinct symphonic elements into their stuff. Skyclad from England approached the legacy of NWBHM in a different way, having mixed it with Techno Thrash and Celtic folk music (which is symphonic already in itself). The music of Wuthering Heights embraces all the said directions, elements and peculiarities and even more, since some of this disc's eleven tracks contain also parts of a mixed opera-like choir, as well as non-heavy Art-Rock-like movements, the features typical of classic Prog-Metal being evident in many instrumental interludes, particularly in those involving vivid keyboard solos. No, I am not going to call in question the originality of the band's music. The resemblance with the said artists is often barely audible, but nonetheless - the ideas are in the air, and after all, influences are not opposed to originality! The sound is very diverse and saturated, and I think the concept of a Wagner Metal can in a way be applicable to this album as well, and not only because the guys from time to time use string and orchestral arrangements. Just lend an ear to the guitar solos that seem to be memorable already upon the first spin (such can be found on many tracks) - most of them are classically inspired. Patrik Johansson is a possessor of a deep, very flexible voice, although most of his vocals arouse associations with the severe nature of Greenland. The songs, Demon Desire, Snow and I Shall Not Yield, each rush like a mountain river full of turbulent streams. These stand out for their machine-gun-fire-like pace and contain little elements of Folk Metal. I see them as the works of a Teutonic progressive school of NWBHM. Within their most rapid and hard arrangements can be found some grains of symphonic gold - now in the form of Hammond organ, now in that of piano, which seems to be physically fragile. Beautifool and Faith are already much richer in folk intonations, at times displaying a really fine, if not perfect, balance-synthesis of the two basic styles. And if the former is still mostly violent, the latter is more contrasting and is also notable for its acoustic guitar and string passages inventively interwoven with basic textures. Due to the constant presence of a violin, both Envy and Carpe Nostem are much closer to progressive Folk Metal and are additionally ones of the brightest examples of the band's ability to subtly slacken and accelerate their pace. Sleep and Faith are each a combination of the two primary styles and clearly symphonic Art-Rock-like forms, each featuring also a long instrumental interlude with only acoustic guitar and violin in the picture. As for the ninth track, Reason, I am not sure whether there is any reason to speak of it, as it's a very brief 'narrative' intro to Carpe Nostem, but I see I've done this already:-).
Conclusion. "The Shadow Cabinet" is easily Wuthering Heights' best and most progressive effort to date and is an album which is perfect, both compositionally and technically. I don't really know what prevents me from adding an exclamation mark to the rating - perhaps the presence of a bonus track, Midnight Song. This is a ballad-like number, which is strongly inferior to any of the previous songs. Anyway, along with their countrymen Secret Oyster's "Sea Son", this is one of the two strongest studio albums that I have reviewed for this update.
VM: December 8, 2006
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