Written by: Lord Hsrah
It’s time for German heavy metal today, after a long time to be honest, and Elmsfire are here to present their latest offering, Wings of Reckoning. Dusseldorf based quartet Elmsfire have been around since a bit more than two decades and have had their own share of multiple lineup changes over the years, but that hasn't let this machine stop from churning out records, as Wings of Reckoning is their sixth. Frequent lineup shifts saw fellow compatriot band Van Canto singer, Ross Thompson, get enlisted to take care of vocal duties. The only constant that's been in the band is the main core, the heart of the whole group, the guitar duo of Germano and Doro, who not only team up for guitar duties but also split bass duties for the album.
Now, I did mention that the number of switching members in the band might not have stopped them from making more music, but I must say that it certainly has diminished them. The album is a blend of heavy metal and thrash metal with certain power metal elements, and tries to fuse the three into something true to the band, which they have been doing really well so far. I must also point out that this is an interesting combo, as there's different elements that touch certain domains that are sonically not quite frequent in heavy metal. We have the usual heavy metal things--the riffage, the solo sections, the odd melodic passage borrowed from power metal, etc. However, I personally felt a lot of things here have been a miss, more than a hit-and-miss.
There's a grand total of 14 songs on the album, which includes three covers and two "spoken" tracks containing just dialogues, one in Spanish and the other in Japanese. Wings of Reckoning starts off with one of these aforementioned dialogue tracks, the sinister "El Murcielago de la Muerte," which is marked by grim and ominous undertones. The atmosphere set in by this intro is something that's a pretty "change of place" kinda thing in the heavy metal that's come out this year so far. And if I'm being honest, I was pretty pumped about the rest of the stuff because I was expecting a bad boy of a skull-busting track chock full of the nastiest riffs. But instead, what comes out at the end of the eerie intro is a pretty lacklustre track in "Camazotz." Now this one has your standard heavy metal riffs and it takes a lot of time to even build up, and even when the chorus hits, its all just another run of the mill basic chorus with not much to impress or show for it--and that is also fine by me; I understand every intro+sequel track can't be like Gamma Ray's "Induction + Dethrone Tyranny" combo. But what I didn't really get is how the two polar opposite undertones of these tracks are even supposed to mesh together, or what the reason or meaning for it is. Furthermore, a lot of the riffage is pretty bland and tasteless and doesn't invoke any emotions or feelings. The incorporation of thrash is a bit poor as well, and a lot of things don't really feel like they belong there.
However, not all is doom and gloom with this one. There are certain songs on the album where the riffing is so on point you actually forget it came on this album. "Croghan" is one such track, and quite honestly, my favorite one too. It's got a nice down picked, classic 80's heavy metal styled riff sequence, and the riffage holds on for quite some time. The chorus is also pretty good and sounds catchy as well. Quite a few passages throughout the album are clearly derived from power metal and they seem to add a nice bit of flair to the music with the change in dynamics and melodies. And for all my complaining with the uninspiring riffage, the lead and solo sections are tasty as hell! For the brief duration of the solos, the world this album seems to produce just feels right, green and the most beautiful thing ever, and boy do I love the solos in my heavy metal to be such otherworldly creations! Full credit to the axemen here! Other songs like "Leviathan" and "Mouth Full of Sand" are right up there with "Croghan" in terms of songwriting and the way they sound. The cover songs that made the album viz. Ozzy's "Killer of Giants," Slayer's "Crionics" are very well executed, and Elmsfire's own added touch gives these songs are new dimension that's refreshing. Also I'd like to point out, this whole album, played in entirety at a live gig, would absolutely get the crowd going. The material is just like that--best suited for live gigs (usually where most folks come to mosh and get tanked) with the passages the songs have and the way they're arranged, and that is always a plus in my book.
All in all, "Wings of Reckoning" is, quite sadly, an effort that could have been so so much more than it was made out to be, and I think my disappointment majorly lies in this very fact. Tracks like "Croghan" and "Mouth Full of Sand" show exactly what this band is capable of and the heights they can go to but alas, we are unfortunately not shown a lot of that on the album. A decent part of the album sounds a like Priest, Accept and the like and even build up on that quite well but are sadly crumbled due to the weak links in the entire structure. I absolutely hate to be so critical of German bands (especially heavy metal) who have been doing it longer than a ton of today's newbies, and I think the constant changes may have had a drastic effect on this. Perhaps my own expectations were a bit different than what the album projected and what it turned out to be, but I believe they'll come out hard and stronger with their next release.
Elmsfire - Wings of Reckoning was released Sept. 25th, 2020
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!