Wuthering Heights - Within

Year of Release: 1999
Label: Sensory
Catalog Number: 3006
Format: CD
Total Time: 46:17:00

Within is the first of Wuthering Heights' trilogy, released in 1999; a trilogy that continued with To Travel For Evermore (2002) and concluded with this year's Far From The Madding Crowd. This is a terrific debut, full of touches that fans of harder-edged progressive rock, as well as progressive metal fans, will find quite enjoyable. And that is because it is a textured release, being not just non-stop metal but something of an amalgam of styles. For the rollicking "The Hunter In The Dark," there is the romantic, classically styled intro to "Dreamwalker." The tinkling, tinny sound of keyboards bring in a baroquey feel to several tracks, even while the guitars bring in a Celtic feel. These two elements come together nicely. And it's all played with the hallmarks of thundering percussion and bass; sharp, wild guitar solos; lush and layered keyboards; and soaring vocals, sometimes solo, sometimes in harmony that is characteristic of this brand of epic metal. It's epic not only because there's a story-concept being played out, but because everything is played in large, bold strokes. And very melodic, too.

There are many highlights here, as there is something I like about each track. Which is good - it means there isn't one that you need to skip. One of my favorites is "Too Great Thy Gift," which presages "The Road Goes Ever On" in a lot of ways - even though by then only guitarist Erik Ravn and keyboardist Rune S. Brink remained from the original line up. It begins in a very dark and moody fashion (following on from "?Hunter") but soon we have very Celtic in nature rolling a guitar lead that gives away almost immediately to the vocals. It's in the chorus that you will hear the later track (and if you haven't yet heard Far From?, you should). The song isn't remarkable in that it takes progressive/power metal into new territories? you'll find it otherwise a comfortable, familiar fit if you are a fan of the genre, but what it does is demonstrate - as does the whole album - what a capable band WH are, and would become on later albums. And I'm always happy when a debut is great, the potential is great, and the band meets or exceeds that potential on the next album (and both their later albums got very high marks from me).

Another highlight track for me is "Dreamwalker." It is a diverse piece, and clearly the epic at the center of this album, a 13-plus minute tour-de-force of classical, Celtic, metal, rock and pastoral textures. Pounding drums play under lyrical piano flourishes? Dream Theater meets Rick Wakeman. At least that's the thought that came to mind. It might be guilty of trying to do too much, to include too many elements, which can also make it seem just a little too fragmented. Yet another highlight is "The Hunter In The Dark," another diverse track, one part rolling adventure that sweeps you along, one part more pastoral in feel. The track matches the states of mind of the character? itself perhaps a metaphor for the duality of man.

Guest Henriette Cordes opens the darkly churning, awkwardly arranged "Sorrow In Memoriam" with a screeching violin, but one that latter sounds quite suite. A classical element comes in during the bridge with stringly, steely keyboards? baroque-like, but this gives way to furious drumming and thudding bass, and some the darkest and snarliest vocals from Kristian "Krille" Adré:en. He otherwise has a clean voice with slight accent, but rather than distract, adds character. To my ears, he sounds like D. C. Cooper quite a bit (though on To Travel? it was of John Wetton that I thought of). The end of this bridge is swirling chaos of violin and guitar that will make you think of a tempest of swirling spikes.

"The Bird" takes flight right out of the gate, a heavy thunder of a track that has a single light thread running through it in places - the trilling flute of Troels Liebgott. It's little might what might result if Metallica covered an Iron Maiden song (Adréen's roughened vocals recall James Hetfield's). Well, you do get a lighter section to end the piece - a bit angelic, as it almost sounds as if harps are playing. Acoustic guitars, I'm guessing, as a similar sound opens the mostly somber "The Wanderer's Farewell." It doesn't quite become a power ballad, preferring to stay in more pastoral territory.

Yes it is a bit mood and dark, even the themes are dark in nature - the wander in the story questions his sanity, questions his purpose, his mortality? you know, the really big issues we all struggle with at one time or another (or always, depending on who you are). (And surely why the album is called Within). Sure, they are familiar issues; and the lonely wanderer is also an iconic figure (certainly in fantasy/medieval set literature), but there is something very engaging about how WH go about it. It's a strong debut that is worth turning your attention to.

Chuckle moment: Allmusic.com classifies this as: Alternative Rock/Pop? well, it's an alternative to pop, that's true?

Enter The Cave (3:08) / Hunter In The Dark (5:57) / Too Great Thy Gift (7:12) / Sorrow In Memoriam (8:31) / Dreamwalker (13:38) / The Bird (3:51) / The Wanderer's Farewell (5:20)

Kristian Andrén - lead vocals
Kasper Gram - bass
Rune S. Brink - keyboards
Erik Ravn - guitars, vocals
Morten Nødgaard - drums

Within (1999)
To Travel For Evermore (2002)
Far From The Madding Crowd (2004)
The Shadow Cabinet (2006)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin DK

Added: November 21st 2004
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.wuthering-heights.dk
Hits: 788
Language: english


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