It's been a while since I reviewed Shield of Wings on this blog. Their first recording, the EP Solarium, was released in 2011. I reviewed a concert they played in August of that year, and have been following them since then.Unfinished. I was instantly curious to hear how they sound on this new material. Guitarist and main songwriter, James Gregor, and fellow founding member Patrick Eulitz (drums), have recruited a new lineup, featuring Aliyah Daye on keyboards and backing vocals, Alex Luke on bass guitar, and Lara Mordian on lead vocals. My first exposure to any of the new music was their music video for the first single, "Wetland". After that experience, I was eager to hear more. Their overall sound and style of symphonic metal sounds complete, fresh, and epic! Beyond that, the recording reverberates with top-notch production. Every instrument can be heard crisp and clear.
To reference a couple established bands in the symphonic metal genre, I'd compare Lara's vocal style to Epica's Simone Simons. Lara uses a smooth blending of head-voice and chest-voice throughout most songs. Aliyah adds backing vocals in styles ranging from melodic harmonies to death growls. While this may seem stylistically similar to Epica as well, Shield of Wings doesn't implement the harsher vocal style as prominently. Theirs is a primarily melodic, operatic style of vocals with a small peppering of death growls, and only in a fraction of their songs.
Musically their formula sounds close to mid-era Nightwish, as they use heavy guitars, and synthesized symphonic and folk elements to navigate the mood of each piece. Patrick Eulitz could practically be channeling Nightwish's Jukka Nevalainen, he's so precise with the rapid, double-bass drums, and keeping a tight and powerful rhythm through the heavy moments of the music. Nearly every track incorporates multiple elements, with segments that shift from dark heavy tones, to light operatic phrases and back again. Tempos ramp up to furious paces, only to calm again and build the contrast further. Yet every transition flows so seamlessly, they sound like they've been in this field for years, if not decades.
On the track "Cedar", they introduce elements of folk and Celtic music, with a wide array of instruments to match. Heavy guitars and symphonic elements join in, and make this song an immersing musical experience. It's one of my favorite track on the album.
The closing track, "The Scarred Clay Reshaping" is the crowning jewel. The longest track at seven and a half minutes, and lyrics that bring the album full circle, even referencing their early EP in the chorus: "Unfinished solarium, one more cut of the seeker's tongue." Themes of life, struggle, despair and rebirth abound throughout the album, but culminate in the closing lyric: "Ode to the scarred clay reshaping, ode to the ever-flowing river!"
Prepare to be transfixed... Here is the video for "Wetland":