Wind Rose are a band I inadvertently skipped over a couple of times – I missed their last album in our review pile and I didn’t see them at Bloodstock in 2017. I am now kicking myself up the arse. With the recent release of the stupidly catchy cover of “Diggy Diggy Hole”, they blipped my radar and I jumped at Wintersaga when it dropped into our mailbox.
After the silliness of the single, I was very surprised with the range of music on show. While still being folk metal (the folk in this question being dwarves) throughout, there are nods to various other sub-genres, keeping Wintersaga from getting boring. There are some wonderful riffs, some heavy sections, great melodic vocals and some marginally harsher areas. Multiple listens in and I think they have a staggering amount in common with Skálmöld despite not being so brutal when they do go down that path. They’ve nailed that balance of heavy and folky.
Production values are high and the songs sound huge regardless of whether they are epic in terms of length or not (and there are a couple which definitely rank as epic in terms of timing). Ale tankards should be raised and waved to the title track, while “Drunken Dwarves” encourages you to neck the frothy fluid within and dance a jig with its fast pace and woodwind backing.
“The Art of War” isn’t a Sabaton cover, though the subject matter isn’t dissimilar (how to crush your enemies), but “There And Back Again” is just amazing. Slap on the wrist if you don’t get the dwarven link in the title, but wrap your ears around the lyrics and you can’t help but be drawn into a metal homage to Tolkien’s famous shorter novel. Indeed, this theme is apparent across the album from the title track and again to a greater extent in “The King Under the Mountain”. “There And Back Again”, though, really comes across as the kind of song a people would write to chronicle the events of their past. True Dwarven metal!
The album closes with nine minutes of “We Were Warriors”, an epic end to an epic album which has been on fairly high rotation since I got my human-sized mitts on it. “We Were Warriors” is everything the final track should be on an album like this. Long, atmospheric, and giving each of the band members (and therefore the staggering array of instruments on show) a chance to shine. This isn’t the kind of song that deserves a video – it deserves a full motion picture!
Wintersaga is a great collection of music which has been put together with far more talent and seriousness than you’d expect when you hear the phrase “dwarven metal”. It could so easily be a throwaway novelty, but it’s not. It’s superb.
Wintersaga is out on September 27th