STORMWIND — Rising Symphony (review)

STORMWIND — Rising Symphony album cover Album · 2003 · Neoclassical metal Buy this album from MMA partners
2.5/5 ·
lukretion
Formed in 1995, Stormwind are the brainchild of Swedish guitar maestro Thomas Wolf. The band started playing an unusual brand of female-fronted AOR, before transitioning towards a neoclassical power metal sound that nevertheless retained distinctive AOR / hard rock influences. The band caught the attention of Massacre Records that in 2000 offered them a record deal. Stormwind will go on to release three studio albums and one live record for the German label, which Black Lodge Records is now re-releasing in remastered format with added bonus tracks. Rising Symphony is the last studio album released by Stormwind in 2003, concluding a short but prolific career, with six studio albums in the course of a mere nine years.

The first thing that is impressive about this album is the quality of Stormwind lineup. Thomas Wolf is a guitar powerhouse, following in the footsteps of giants like Ritchie Blackmore and Yngwie Malmsteen, but with a more modern, almost thrashy edge to his playing that makes it refreshing. Thomas Vikström is responsible for the vocal duties. The guy needs little introduction, his stints in Candlemass and Therion have gained him a strong reputation in the metal circles. His performance on Rising Symphony is remarkable, especially for the impressive vocal range he shows throughout the album. The rhythm section is comprised of drummer David Wallin (currently playing with HammerFall) and bassist Andreas Olsson (Royal Hunt, ex-Narnia). Their playing is tight and hyper-fast, yet precise and nuanced, as the genre dictates. The lineup is completed by keyboard player Kaspar Dahlqvist (who played on Angra’s Secret Garden album). His presence is not very prominent on this album, but in previous Stormwind’s records his duels with Thomas Wolf’s guitar were nothing short of legendary.

It’s fair to say that this strong lineup is what holds this album together. Don’t get me wrong, Rising Symphony is by no means a bad album. Its nine tracks alternate between fast speed metal pieces and majestic ballads and mid-tempos, always retaining a strong neoclassical power metal gusto in the spirit of legendary acts like Rainbow, Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force and Stratovarius. There is also a strong hard rock component, that is most evident in songs like “Streets of Prishtine” and Queen’s cover “White Man”. Yet, I cannot shake off the impression that most of what I hear on this album has already been done (and better) elsewhere, including by Stormwind on their previous albums. Without strong performances like those provided by the band, the album would have seriously risked to fall completely flat.

Part of the problem is that Wolf’s songwriting on Rising Symphony follows a rather plain “pedal-to-metal” approach, relying on speed and heaviness rather than atmosphere and melody. Inevitably, the songs feel less nuanced and are melodically weaker than the sophisticated and vaguely proggy material Wolf had written for albums like Resurrection (2000) or Reflections (2001). Even the obligatory semi-acoustic ballad “River of Love” pales in comparison to songs like “Golden Tears” and “Seven Seas” that Stormwind had released on their previous two albums. The record also feels a tad too heterogeneous for its own sake. “Streets of Prishtine” is actually a very good song, and it would have worked perfectly well if it had been released by Whitesnake on one of their 80s albums. But it feels spectacularly out of place squeezed between the neoclassical speed metal assault of “Flyer” and the epic mid-tempo “Excalibur”. The same goes for the bluesy Queen’s cover “White Man”. Truth be told, Stormwind’s hard rock version of this track is actually more engaging that the original by Queen, but it nevertheless remains an odd choice for a power metal album.

The albums has some saving grace in songs like the epic Viking tale of “Strangers from the Sea”, which features a rich choral extravaganza, and “Excalibur”, a majestic yet vaguely sinister mid-tempo that closes the album in style. I actually wish Stormwind had relied more heavily on the use of choirs (sometimes operatic, sometimes more in the vein of Queen), as they had done on their previous album Reflections. On that album, the choirs added an unusual feel to the typical neoclassical power metal sound, elevating Stormwind above other similar bands. Unfortunately, we only get a taste of this on “Strangers from the Sea” and “River of Love”, while the rest of the album moves within much more conventional territories.

The remastered version does not sound all that different from the original 2003 CD. Noticeable differences emerge mostly on the more complex passages, like the busy chorus of “Strangers from the Sea”, where the remaster sounds smoother and more balanced. The new release contains one bonus track, the fairly anonymous “Wings of Tomorrow”, a re-recording of a song that had originally appeared on the band's debut album and was released as a bonus track on the 2003’s Japanese version of Rising Symphony. It replaces the short acoustic instrumental “Venezia” that had appeared on the 2003 European release and that, frankly, was a more pleasant and interesting piece.

All in all, at Rising Symphony may not be Stormwind’s finest hour, but this should not stop you to explore the band’s back catalogue. Albums like Resurrection and especially Reflections are excellent examples of the neoclassical power metal revival of the 1990s and can hold their ground when compared to some of the best works in the genre. Black Lodge Records has re-released both of these albums as well and, if you are a fan of this type of sound, you should definitely check them out!

[Originally written for The Metal Observer]
Share this review

Review Comments

Post a public comment below | Send private message to the reviewer
Please login to post a shout
No shouts posted yet. Be the first member to do so above!

MMA TOP 5 Metal ALBUMS

Rating by members, ranked by custom algorithm
Albums with 30 ratings and more
Master of Puppets Thrash Metal
METALLICA
Buy this album from our partners
Powerslave NWoBHM
IRON MAIDEN
Buy this album from our partners
Paranoid Heavy Metal
BLACK SABBATH
Buy this album from our partners
Moving Pictures Hard Rock
RUSH
Buy this album from our partners
Led Zeppelin IV Hard Rock
LED ZEPPELIN
Buy this album from our partners

New Metal Artists

New Metal Releases

Sacrificial Deathcore
YOKAI
Buy this album from MMA partners
Act Three - Water Progressive Metal
EXIST IMMORTAL
Buy this album from MMA partners
Hell Is Real Sludge Metal
WAR AGAINST THE SUN
Buy this album from MMA partners
At One With None Heavy Metal
PORTRAIT
Buy this album from MMA partners
Too Late Metalcore
TELL NO TALES
Buy this album from MMA partners
More new releases

New Metal Online Videos

More videos

New MMA Metal Forum Topics

More in the forums

New Site interactions

More...

Latest Metal News

members-submitted

More in the forums

Social Media

Follow us