It’s over a decade since American symphonians Shield of Wings released their debut EP, and a whopping seventeen trips around the sun since the band formed; Only now are they releasing their debut full length album, and so of course the first, the burning, question to answer must be: was it worth the wait?
As a non-committed observer, I’d have to say yes. For whilst there’s certainly nothing new to be heard here – the book on symphonic metal was truly finished and sent off to the printers years ago, possibly even before these guys formed – what there is is very well put together, with some standout performances to enjoy along the way.
Shield of Wings feature not one but two female vocalists, and the pair – Lara Mordian up front, Aliyah Daye offering gutteral backups and keyboard accompaniment, mesh together very well. The black metal-tinged excess of Frozen Harbor is a particular highlight; as you’d expect, the band take the kitchen sink approach to their mini operas, but – and it’s a big but in the context of a genre that just doesn’t accept the tenet ‘less is more’ – they know how to fit this stuff together. Arrangements here are tight, powered by the superb drumming of co-founder Pat Eulitz, and every orchestral flourish is made to count as support to Mordian’s impressive vocals. James Gregor – the band’s other co-founder and the man responsible for all the music and lyrics – keeps his guitar contributions taught and actually rather spare, preferring to add to the wall of sound rather than litter unnecessary pyrotechnics to the already full-to-bursting arrangements.
Cedar is perhaps the most derivative track here – Nightwish loom large in the orchestration for sure – but even here the band offer enough of themselves to stop matters becoming too hackneyed. And any shortcoming here are more than offset by excellent tracks like Wetland, whose urgent, pulsing rhythms and stirring orchestrations really set the pulse racing.
Good stuff overall then, and here’s hoping the band don’t leave it as long to get their next album out!
Unfinished releases on February 11th.