Elwing - War 3.5/5

Reviewed: 8-12-05


1. Marching to glory
2. At the gates
3. I'll live forever
4. Stormlord
5. Sons of revenge
6. War
7. Blood on my hands
8. Fly away
9. Armageddon
10. Lost humanity

Greek true metallers Elwing turned a few heads with their promising debut CD, 'Immortal stories', back in 2002. Despite the fairly spartan production values, their infectious blend of Running Wild, Blind Guardian and Greek enthusiasm definitely seared them in my metal-addled brain as a band to watch in the future. 3 years later, they have returned on 'War', with the backing of their homeland's surging Black Lotus Records imprint.

In the intervening years, there have been a few changes in the Elwing camp. The band have changed bass players. Several of them now sport much longer hair than they did at the time of the debut CD, perhaps because they've had time to grow it out since concluding their compulsory military service? The production has also changed, decidedly for the better. Although many Greek CDs are notorious for demo-level sound quality, Elwing have achieved a strong, satisfactory production on this CD. Amazingly, 'War' is self-produced, but I imagine that the Black Lotus budget has enabled the band to spend the time and access the facilities necessary to capture a proper power metal sound on a 21st century recording. On the negative side, the artwork has also changed, for the worse. While 'Immortal stories' featured a magnificent Ken Kelly piece featuring a fearsome warrior towering before an angry crimson background, the new one is a skull cut-and-paste job that looks like a second-rate Travis Smith or Mattias Noren effort. The problem is that this cover would be much better suited for death metal than a band of Elwing's ilk, so I'm afraid consumers may be misled.

Thankfully, the music has not changed. Like its predecessor, 'War' is chock full of uptempo true German-styled epic power metal, with riffs channeling classic Running Wild with perhaps some Iced Earth gallop as well, even as the solos and licks recall the technique of Andre Olbrich of Blind Guardian fame. Most song lengths hover in the 5 minute range, so they're a bit shorter than 'Immortal stories', but the epic feeling remains. Vocally, I expect some people will find Sakis K.'s gruff delivery a bit offputting, particularly given his much more melodic approach on the debut. I'm not sure why he toughened up his act, but he now sounds a bit like Dark at Dawn's Buddy Kohlrausch in places. He's certainly adequate for this kind of music; nonetheless, there are places like the acoustic intro to "Blood on my hands" where he struggles desperately to emote and hit notes that I'm afraid exceed his range. And the choirs could use some work too, to more effectively convey that epic feeling. Also, while the songs are strong, the memorability factor is not quite where it needs to be, despite the glimpses of true excellence. Perhaps it's telling that my favorite song here is the instrumental title track, where the dazzling Blind Guardian-esque melodies and the military snare combine for one of the best instrumentals of the year. Of course, neckbreakers like "Fly away" and "Stormlord" are great too.

In the final analysis, Elwing are an accomplished act playing my favorite style, speedy German-influenced power/true metal powered by crunchy guitars, pounding double-bass, outstanding 6-string melody lines, and epic hymns to battle. 'War' may not be a perfect CD, but it is absolutely recommended to fans of the genre. If I had to choose between 'War' and 'Rogues en vogue', for instance, I'd choose the former every day and twice on Sunday. Oh, and keep an eye on Elwing, because these boys may one day uncork a masterpiece.




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