Winterage – The Inheritance Of Beauty

The Inheritance Of Beauty Album Cover Art

Winterage – The Inheritance Of Beauty
Scarlet Records
Release Date: 15/01/2021
Running Time: 61:00
Review by Simon Black
8/10

Symphonic Metal is a challenging and complex beast. The simplest definition of it is ‘Metal meets Classical’, but as always this is just the tip of the iceberg in the sea of definition – a troubling sea to sail at the best of times. Is a five- or six-piece band, creating a semi-classical sound on their own, the purist definition of the sub-genre (as say Nightwish are)? What if someone who is more firmly categorised as Metal or Hard Rock decides to play with an orchestra like Paradise Lost, Metallica, Kiss, Deep Purple and countless others have done over the years? Personally, I exclude the latter, as in these instances these are artists playing their regular material in a different arrangement as a one-off activity, usually for the purposes of a specific live gig or tour. The former at least is music written for this format, and so has happily been my guiding principle of definition over the years. The danger of course with defining anything is that sooner or later some cheeky swine comes along and breaks all the rules by throwing all the boundaries into one melting pot, as Winterage have done here.

The core of this Italian band is a five-piece bunch of musicians, although unusually a full-time violin player is part of this core team, along with all the other folk tropes. This particular recording however has also gone crazy ape bonkers with a twenty strong choir and twenty-six-piece orchestra as well – not to mention a Uillean Pipe player and all-round whistle blower (blame Nightwish, they started this one-upmanship when they hired Troy Donockley). Not bad going when you are only on your second album, although given that it’s taken them six years between albums something spectacular was definitely due. Spectacular feels like too small a word…

Like many Italian contributors to the genre, some of the well-trodden path of the likes of Rhapsody et al is visible, but I would argue this is more about the operatic tradition of the country than the influence of these other bands specifically. Either way, this is musically quite as epic, astounding and musically effective a record as you could hope to lay your hands on – which given where Nightwish have taken things with their most recent release is no small feat. Where this works so well is the way the folk instrumental sentiments are joined at the hip with the Classical (almost at the expense of the Metal instrumentation, which feels like a part of the orchestra, rather than one being an add-on to the other. This is also a case of folk instruments playing classical forms and some of the frenetic violin work on tracks like ‘Chain of Heaven’ is little short of outstanding. This of a violinist who can shred like John Pettruci and you will just begin to imagine what Gabriele Boschi has achieved here. He’s been a busy chap, as he also wrote all the orchestrations for the album to boot.

Vocally this is quite frankly dizzying. The challenge with having so many vocal contributors involved is it’s sometime hard to tell where vocalist Daniele Barbarossa ends and the rest of the choir begins, although with every vocal style from soprano to Metal Growl represented, the net effect is like the Metal Opera delivery of the original Avantasia album – only with bursts of operatic Italian. It’s going to be a bitch to play live too. Nothing sums up the achievement of this album more than the epic finale ‘The Amazing Toymaker’, which takes every musical extreme this album has thrown to date back at you in a whopping seventeen-minute epic of staggering proportions, which lyrically may be the maddest thing I have ever heard, and does sound like someone has also been listening to Avatar’s “Black Waltz” album recently as well…

The challenge this album has is that whilst musically and vocally dizzying, it sometimes lacks the immediacy of the more commercially orientated acts. Avantasia may not be for everyone, but Tobias Sammet knows how to leverage the fan base of his array of contributors and achieve the ‘everyman’ broad appeal, no matter how avant garde he gets, whereas as a relative newcomer and no likelihood of being able to bring the full musical ensemble on tour Winterage, have a much bigger uphill struggle on their hands. Everyman is an important word and to appeal to a wider audience you need a song to reach into more commercial territory and this album does not have one. Completely bonkers, but an incredible piece of work, nonetheless.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Ouverture
02. The Inheritance Of Beauty
03. The Wisdom Of Us
04. Of Heroes And Wonders
05. The Mutineers
06. Orpheus And Eurydice
07. Chain Of Heaven
08. La Morte di Venere
09. Oblivion Day
10. The Amazing Toymaker

LINE-UP:
Daniele Barbarossa – Vocals
Gabriele Boschi – Violin
Gianmarco Bambini – Guitars
Matteo Serlenga – Bass
Luca Ghiglione – Drums

LINKS:

Winterage Promo Pic

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