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This review is from: Within (Audio CD)
There are albums that come and go under the spotlight, but some are never glimpsed at all. I always felt that Denmark's Wuthering Heights were a band that missed their chance at the big time, and while they are still making albums and progressing with each endeavor, the quaint majesty of their 1999 debut will never be matched. As an instant of genius (like most great ideas), it probably didn't seem this way to Eric Ravn and his group of playing troubadours that they were making a piece of work that would be so inventive and timeless. Indeed, most who have heard it will agree otherwise. But Within is a record I have gone back to many times, and despite sounding rather naïve at first, it is an album that packs extreme longevity into its arsenal as one of the most original Prog-Power Metal albums ever to surface.
If Power Metal had been about during the Renaissance, it probably would have sounded like this. Not to say Wuthering Heights play distinctly Medieval-themed metal, but the use of instrumentation is certainly reminiscent of that era, with some grand, galloping riffs flowing like a quiet stream through massive, mountain-like melodies that are huge and intoxicating, delivered with such panache by genre stalwart Kristian Andren. Wuthering Heights were at an advantage with this in that no comparison can be drawn; they just don't sound like anyone. The band masterfully mix ancient, fantasy-based folk with raging Power Metal and jagged Prog elements, dressing it all in a whimsical, wandering cloth of balladry that gives the album such an otherworldly feel. From the first minute of "Enter The Cave", Wuthering Heights suck the listener into another age, and not until the dark strains of "The Wanderer's Farewell" is the spell broken. There is something real special about the atmosphere on this thing. It's all-consuming.
The songs are experimental, engaging, and surprisingly infectious - just try getting the refrains of "Hunter In The Dark" or the double-pedaled closing of "Too Great Thy Gift" out of your head, I dare you - and the more the band throw into the pot, the better it gets. Thirteen minute epic "Dreamwalker", the undisputed highlight of the album, is awash with influence, from jarring African percussion to sweeping Dream Theater synth leads, from big Rhapsody-isms to funky slap-bass, there is little uncovered on the map of metal's vast geography. Each track serves as a mini-epic, and while it may take a while to fully appreciate everything that's going on, each listen drops you deeper into their world, and once you familiarize yourself with the landscape, it's a place you'll never want to leave.
Perhaps not the best sounding record - Jacob Hansen's production has never been as good as people claim - Within is still a beautifully elegant metal record, and though it may be delegated to constant underground status, it deserves to be heralded as one of the most innovative and inspiring moves the genre has ever made.