Salt is the fifth full length album from Danish metal band Wuthering Heights. Anyone who knows the group’s music will already know this but this is one of those bands that are impossible to pigeonhole into any one genre of metal music, simply because they are always drifting between power, progressive and folk metal on their albums, sometimes with symphonic elements in there as well. On Salt the symphonic element that has cropped up in the past isn’t so evident, but we’ve still got a mix of three great metal genres in one album here, and this mix makes sure that Wuthering Heights never get stale.
Once again songwriter Eric Ravn has given his listeners an album of the highest possible quality and with it topped off by excellent musicianship and the powerful vocals of Nils Patrick Johansson this isn’t a release that will disappoint the group’s followers and is a highly recommended album for anyone really into progressive, power or folk metal to check out as an introduction to this great band and since that is something that can be said of all their albums, maybe says volumes about the quality of music they produce.
Salt opens with a short track, Away!, this is a song of sorts in its own right but at the same time serves as an introduction to the album. It builds up with some chanting before Nils’s vocals bursts out of your speakers. How can I not note right away just how much like the late and great Ronnie James Dio this man can sound at times (while at others, nothing alike)? Nils in one versatile vocalist, and as you get deeper into this record, you’ll be able to here just what I mean.
After this the band deliveries great song upon great song, first The Desperate Poet gives us a full power metal assault (though it has its softer parts such as the Bridge), and then with the third track, The Mad Sailor, they switch to full on folk metal and produce one of my favourite songs from the album and indeed, their entire catalogue. The chorus in this one is one of those that is just so addictive that I want to keep playing the song time after time again.
What I think makes Salt really great is that these style switches don’t sound out of place. They are what really makes Wuthering Heights what they are and with track after track being as good as the last, there isn’t a lot to complain about on Salt.
But there is something. It’s not a major quibble, but it is here and must be said. One track annoys me, not because it is bad, but because it is a missed chance. Water of Life, which is track eight on the album, and with Away! Aside is the shortest of the songs. Now this is a good song, but there is much potential here for it to be a great song like all the other tracks on the album. This is an acoustic piece and one that as it gets going sounds really good and could easily be one of the highlights, if not the highlight of the whole album. There’s just one problem, just as soon as it starts to get really epic it starts fading out and then it’s over and to me, is the only part of the album that sounds, well for want of a better word – wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I do like Water of Life for what it is, but this is one of the biggest missed chances I’ve ever heard in album. It affected me so much first time listening to the album that it distracted my attention from the epic closing track Lost at Sea, because I kept thinking “what was Eric thinking?”. Lost at Sea, for the record, is the longest song the band have recorded to date and it’s a good closer, going out in an epic progressive fashion.
Despite the one major disappointment I can’t help feeling about Salt, overall it is a highly enjoyable album and easily stands up to its predecessor 2006’s The Shadow Cabinet, even if it doesn’t top the group’s masterpiece 2004’s Far From the Madding Crowd. If that one missed chance wasn’t here then it really would be an album worth a perfect score, however, unfortunately, I can’t justify it in this case as much as I’d like to. However very close effort.
(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven)