Wotan - Epos 2.5/5
1. Drink in the skull
2. The quest for the grail
3. Dark centuries
4. Mother forest
6. Vae victis
7. Vlad tepes
8. Dream of maxen
9. Chanson de roland
10. Foggy dew
It applies of course to any sort of music, but I'm sure many people will know what I mean when I say that epic metal has to be done properly. When you play in the style of Wotan, with rudimentary riffs and drumming forming the basis of nearly all your songs, you really need to offer something a bit special to make an entire CD of it worth listening to.
Unfortunately, this long-running Italian band hasn't managed to do this with 'Epos', only their 2nd full-length since their formation nearly 20 years ago. The songs, individually taken, are all mostly presentable enough to fill out space on a CD that has its fair share of truly killer tunes, but when only brief flashes of true inspiration lighten the otherwise repetitive music rather than the other way around, it makes it difficult to muster any motivation to go back to the CD once it has finished playing.
The band's frontman, Vanni, is a singer capable of holding a note and offering a great shriek here and there, but simply lacks the commanding presence of, say, Eric Adams to carry a song. Too often his vocals remain at the same mid-pace regardless of the song going on around them, and his vocal melodies are just too similar across songs. Variety is in short supply, and when it does appear it only really serves to highlight the lack of it elsewhere on the CD.
As is often the case on a mostly midtempo CD, the only real song that is fast from start to finish, "Vlad tepes" is the best of the bunch and leaves a frustrating aftertaste at the thought of what a few more of its kind would have done to improve the CD as a whole. With an excellent lead part and an urgent vocal performance, it stands head and shoulders above most of the sound-a-like songs that surround it.
A bit of a surprise is that legendary former Manowar guitarist Ross the Boss makes 2 guest appearances on the CD. The first is in the capacity as a pianist on "Mother forest", which is probably the worst song on the CD – a simple and uninspiring ballad that finishes in exactly the same place as it starts. Fortunately, when he picks up his more accustomed instrument for "Spartacus", things get a lot more interesting, with a brilliant solo midway through rescuing the song from languishing with the rest.
To their credit, Wotan show some real ambition with the closing track – a 15 minute epic called "Chanson de roland", which, while probably a little overlong, offers a glimpse of what could have been with an amazing atmospheric midsection and guitar solo book-ended by the most memorable chorus on the CD. More of this sort of thing is really what the band could do with, along with a couple of new riffs to accompany the weatherworn few that seem to bear the weight of the full CD. It is pretty unlikely, though, that a band this long in the tooth would be willing to change their ways, and another release in the style of 'Epos' would probably be a bridge too far for even the most staunch true metal fan. Ardent fans of the subgenre can probably ignore this review and enjoy 'Epos' for what it is, but for those whose tastes are a little more discriminating there isn't a great deal on offer.
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