Wotan - Carmina barbarica 3.5/5

Reviewed: 12-17-04





Tracklist:

1. Lord of the wind
2. Under the sign of Odin's ravens
3. Hussard de la mort
4. Ride of templars
5. Innoxia
6. Wrath of north
7. King of crows
8. Stone giants
9. Black conqueror
10. The cave
11. Thermopiles
12. Iron shadows


Greek metalheads are discerning connoisseurs of epic metal. After all, Hellas is a land where the likes of Manilla Road, Omen, and Warlord are hailed as conquering heroes. It is also a land where many fledgling epic, true metal acts have gotten their start, with results varying from the sublime (Battleroar, Marauder) to the good (Elwing, Raging Storm) to the unimpressive (Reflection, Hourglass). So when Greece's upstart Eat Metal Records label released the debut CD from Milan's metal warriors, Wotan, I took notice.

Amazingly, Wotan have existed in various incarnations for some 15 years, but are only now unleashing their debut. Why it has taken these Italians so long to achieve recognition by independent metal labels, I will never understand. The band's sound is a tasty stew combining elements of Manowar, Domine, Doomsword and the aforementioned Battleroar, with impressive results. 'Carmina Barbarica' is 12 tracks of stout-hearted, fist-pumping, chest-thumping metal of the highest caliber, stuffed with grandiose tales of distant battles, killer melodies, catchy choruses, and chainsaw guitars, all delivered with passion and power. Wotan expertly mixes tempos, from the exhilarating rush of "Lord of the wind" to the somber, doom-laden pacing of "Under the sign of Odin's ravens". Other standout tracks include "Innoxia (Vercingentorix)", a midtempo true metal hymn in the time-honored Manowar tradition, and "Wrath of north", a blistering assault on the eardrums replete with lyrical references to fire dragons, Odin's crows, and screaming hordes. "Stone giants" is a roller-coaster ride, begins with a deceptively sludgy pace, then erupting into a frenzied harmony lead break before resuming a lugubrious tempo for the more-epic-than-thou ending. Moreover, while production is often a problem for bands on Greek labels, Wotan sidesteps this landmine by achieving a punchy, full, but still raw sound (perhaps because they recorded the CD in a studio owned by Deathmaster of Doomsword). And keyboards are thankfully nowhere to be found, with the 4-piece relying solely on traditional metal instrumentation to convey the requisite epic feeling.

My only reservation in recommending this CD is vocalist Vanni Ceni, a warbler in the Morby (Domine) mold, only rougher and less controlled. (A more obscure comparison would be to Eternal Night's singer, although Ceni is certainly better than he.) Had Eric Adams sung on this CD, it might warrant a 5/5 in my book, as the material is that strong. If you can stomach a screechier version of Morby who sometimes sounds like he's gargling industrial-strength Draino, then you'll have no difficulty with Ceni. If you can't, then Wotan is not for you; however, that would be your loss, as 'Carmina Barbarica' is a masterful collection of epic metal forged in a sacred flame by a seasoned band of metal warriors who have patiently honed their craft for more than a decade before emerging from the shadows to stake their claim to the throne. All hail Wotan!



KIT




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