Wilderness Of Hearts has all the necessary bits and pieces to be one of the top retro metal albums of the year; if only a stronger voice were there to lead it
The wave of “retro” metal bands trying to recapture the golden age of a genre, whether it be NWOBHM, USPM, thrash metal, or death metal, is now in its second decade proper. This says a lot about the landscape of the scene, where even in such a strong musical climate, that need for the comforting, nostalgic sounds of the past is important to heavy metal as a way to celebrate what has come before and forge a way forward.
Finland’s Lord Fist emerged in 2011 when the retro scene was just hitting its stride and released their debut full-length, Green Eyleen, in 2015. While they were somewhat overlooked at the time with similar bands like Enforcer hogging the limelight (a band that deserves every inch of said fame), the record was a strong throwback to classic metal with a solid NWOBHM backbone, filled with tasty riffs and good vibes. The only weakness in the band structure were the vocals of Perttu Koivunen. Not bad by any stretch of the imagination, his voice has character but lacks tonality and falls a little flat.
Unfortunately, the vocals have not evolved on their new album, the fancifully titled Wilderness Of Hearts. That’s sad because the music, once again, is balls-to-the-wall heavy metal infused with vast quantities of heart and passion. Songs such as “Aurorae”, “Wings Drawn In Our Minds”, and album-opener “First Morning – Collapse” are strong riff-packed mini-epic tunes that have all the makings of future underground classic. The rhythm section is solid as steel and the guitars shining, golden and fresh. The production, too, is notable – every instrument is on a very level playing field, nothing overshadowed, with that raw, unpolished NWOBHM sound.
The vocals, however, are simply not strong enough to carry these really cool songs to where they could have ultimately reached. Once again, they aren’t out-and-out bad, it’s simply that Koivunen has a limited range that he refuses to admit, and there are points where he attempts to hit notes that he cannot attain. That, and the overall tonal flatness, while a bit of a trend in some NWOBHM and retro vocal areas, gives the ten songs on offer here a bit of a samey vibe, which is a real bummer considering how badass they actually are.
That said, the album swings like a hammer and entertains (much like its predecessor) in spite of the vocals, and it reaches Maiden-esque heights of atmosphere and excitement in big bastards like “Princess Of The Red Flame’” and the title track, where the passion and fire are at their strongest.
Ultimately, if the vocals were attended to, Lord Fist could make a serious name for themselves, either in the underground or even on bigger stages, but it is a noticeable stumbling block that needs focus. Wilderness Of Hearts has all the necessary bits and pieces to be one of the top retro metal albums of the year; if only a stronger voice were there to lead it. But even with that elephant in the room, it makes for just over half-an-hour of fun, exuberant, and fist-banging entertainment, and that ain’t anything to sniff at.
FFO: Angel Sword, Enforcer, Angel Witch