Holy Shire are an Italian eight piece (yes I said eight piece) Metal band who like to play what they call fantasy Metal, symphonic and epic is their aiming point. 'Midgard' is their first full length album since forming in 2009.
Opening track 'Bewitched (My Words Are Power)' sets their stall out with a mixture of riffing guitars, multiple vocalists and a symphonic, power Metal style. The added twist is that they have a flute player weaving melodic lines in an out of the sound.
The next track is very sensibly going to be the first single from the album and have an accompanying video. It's called 'Winter Is Coming' and is inspired by the fantasy series 'Game Of Thrones' which is a worldwide hit right now so a good chance for the band to attract some related attention by using the show's famous tagline.
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The song itself is in suitable territory being effectively an epic metal ballad full of harmonies and soaring vocals over riffing guitars and swathes of keyboards. Not forgetting the flute of course! It's not a bad song but comes over as underpowered and lacking punch.
'Gift Of Death' is a similar case in point, it's a perfectly competent melodic metal song but the production means it comes over sounding a bit polite for metal. I don't know whether this is to allow the flute to be heard but the same issue dogs much of the album.
'Overlord Of Fire' starts promisingly with an almost folk Metal feel when the riffing guitars and drums come in they have a bit more edge but the song suffers from a weak vocal and a lack of focus. 'Holy Shire' as the song they are named after should have the huge sound they crave but again it comes over as lacking that epic feel.
'Revenge Of The Shadow' actually has some really interesting ideas and pairing the flute and guitar together actually works well but I think the vocal lines let the song down again. Next track 'Beyond' is the same with some nice ideas(and lyrics about unicorns) but it suffers from poor execution. I find lead vocalist Aeon struggles to make his mark again and again although the other singer La Sisiki fares better but not by enough.
'Holy War' has some nice touches particularly from the flute and guitars while the album's title track is eight and a half minutes of epic which just fails to take off.
The closer on my copy is the digipack bonus cover of 'Greensleeves' and is a bizarre attempt to metal-ise the medieval song. A brave idea and sometimes these things work but to my ears it just comes over as a bit of comical WTF end to the album. Maybe it works better in a live environment.
Verdict: There are some nice ideas on this album and it was surprising to me how effective the flute was being mixed in successfully on just about every song. I enjoy this kind of melodic Metal a lot but 'Midgard' is let down by a production which accentuates the melodies but lacks enough punch as well as some less than stellar vocals and inconsistent songwriting.
However I hope the single 'Winter Is Coming' is a success for them and allows them to raise their profile enough to have another go with a bigger budget.
Aeon lead vocals
Andrew Moon lead guitar
Ed Gibson guitar
La Sisiki vocals