When you see the cover, clock the image of the band and hear the intro you just know you’re in for a hefty slab of mighty Viking Metal from…errr…Italy. OK, well Italy isn’t hugely known for it’s Viking Metal (I guess it should be Roman Metal, but the costumes just don’t lend themselves as well to Metal do they?), so Wind Rose offer up their own personal take on things, throwing plenty into the mix and ending up with something like Epic, progressive, power, pagan, symphonic, folk, battle…Metal.

As a guide (as that description above is admittedly a tad all-encompassing…) the band find themselves in recent Orden Ogan territory with dashes of Blind Guardian, Ensiferium, Kiuas, Equilibrium and Tyr among others. It’s frantic stuff at times, full of energy, with the songs shooting off in all the aforementioned directions, sometimes all at once, but it’s thoroughly entertaining, massively interesting and ultimately utterly fabulous! Right from that epic intro you are off on a musical journey that is firstly a Metal album, full of Metal attitude, but with just the right amount of orchestration and traditional folk instruments to just give things an extra boost.

“Stonehymn” may be clean sung throughout, but the variation within Francesco Cavalieri’s vocals mean that there is no need for any other style, just some well placed choir here and there and a bit of chanting and gang vocals (some, like in ‘The Returning Race’, are of the wonderfully traditional “hey-lie-lie-hey lie” variety…which pleased my friend Hayley immensly…) – it’s all it needs! The musical arrangements are quite technical and involved as I mentioned earlier and on first listen the whole thing passes in a bit of a blur, but there’s lots to latch on to, demanding further plays (like the fabulous chorus to ‘Under The Stone’ or the wonderfully folky intro to ‘To Erabor’), drawing you back in until the album seems to unfurl and make total sense.

There’s plenty of light and shade, used to great effect, but in the main this is an epic Metal album that soars and swoops in equal measure. The musicianship is as tight as you could hope for and the thought that has gone into the arrangements is almost staggering at times, as there are so many layers and so much going on. It’s an album that will get plenty of plays by yours truly as I hear something else different every time and it seems impossible to get bored of it. I raise my horn (it’s a drinking horn for all the smutty minded out there…) and toast Wind Rose on their hugely entertaining and enjoyable 3rd installment. Here’s to many more!

(8.5/10 Andy Barker)