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Review

Shield Of Wings – Unfinished Review

Band: Shield Of Wings
Album: Unfinished
Label: Independent
Genre: Symphonic/Gothic Metal
Country: US
Release Date: February 11th, 2022
For Fans Of: Nightwish, Epica, Hans Zimmer

I love and fear records that follow a suspiciously long gap. Chicago based Shield Of Wings formed in 2005, apparently did nothing for six years, released an EP, and then disappeared for another eleven years before setting up a kickstarter for their debut full-length record Unfinished. Only two members of this symphonic metal ship of theseus remain of the original 2005 crew, but such a gap tells stories and adds the weight of expectations. When I went to play Unfinished for the first time, I was hoping for flying bears that are on fire and everything else that comes with the worst excesses of symphonic metal. What I got instead was an introspective story of growth. Still had a good time.

Shield Of Wings do an excellent job at piling it on. When they decide to ratchet up a passage, they do so by sending waves of melodies that repeat and build on each other until the listener can’t help but sit enraptured. They don’t do this via dynamics or tempo changes, at least not primarily. Instead, the band uses their chord progression and repetition to build tension until the resolution just feels that much more satisfying. The approach works partially due to the symphonic orchestration on Unfinished.

Rather than using the string section as flavor and tonal frosting, Shield Of Wings let their orchestral side flourish in the corners. The production helped a lot with this, as each small moment can be clearly heard. Strings support the melodies throughout, and make this record sound so much more rich and full than a typical four-piece group can. This is music to forget yourself in, full of life and sound and depth. Even when all the band is actually doing is singing a straight-forward melody with genre-standard backing noises, Shield Of Wings manage to do so much more than their peers.

Unfinished feels polished. Passages flow into one another, and songs sound like cohesive and isolatable moments of a larger whole. This works because Shield Of Wings know when to noodle and go off on their own, and they know when to bring everything together for an impressively written chorus. The orchestral pieces, the metal exoskeleton, the dual vocalists, everything was used without being overused.

However, sometimes the music on Unfinished just awkwardly stands around. The promo material for Unfinished references grand movie scores by composers such as Howard Shore and Hans Zimmer. At times, sure. Unfinished can hit you with broad, sweeping, cinematic soundscapes. But moments of boredom also infest this record. Too much time is spent just standing around. Although the extra symphonic bells and compositional magic tricks sound great, they aren’t enough to work as the meat of the record.

The biggest issue with Unfinished is the unnecessary length. I enjoyed what was here, but Shield Of Wings didn’t need to give me so much of it. Unfinished lasts for just over fifty-eight minutes, and the second half drags. Any three tracks at random could have been cut to make for a much better experience. I could get through Unfinished, but I didn’t feel a need to. Unfinished is a concept album, fine. If Shield Of Wings needed the space to fully tell their story, they needed to add something more to their music to justify said story taking up that much time.

Unfinished is a good record. Probably the best symphonic record I’ve heard so far this year, although the competition isn’t that daunting yet. Shield Of Wings have proven that, whatever happened over the past eleven or seventeen years, they have the ability to craft enjoyable music. I recommend this to fans of the lighter side of symphonic metal, Fleshgod Apocalypse fans need not apply, and to anyone who has ever listened to a movie soundtrack on purpose. Unfinished wasn’t perfect, but it was worth the wait.

Rating:

I love and fear records that follow a suspiciously long gap. Chicago based Shield Of Wings formed in 2005, apparently did nothing for six years, released an EP, and then disappeared for another eleven years before setting up a kickstarter for their debut full-length record Unfinished. Only two members of this symphonic metal ship of theseus remain of the original 2005 crew, but such a gap tells stories and adds the weight of expectations. When I went to play Unfinished for the first time, I was hoping for flying bears that are on fire and everything else that comes with the worst excesses of symphonic metal. What I got instead was an introspective story of growth. Still had a good time.

Shield Of Wings do an excellent job at piling it on. When they decide to ratchet up a passage, they do so by sending waves of melodies that repeat and build on each other until the listener can’t help but sit enraptured. They don’t do this via dynamics or tempo changes, at least not primarily. Instead, the band uses their chord progression and repetition to build tension until the resolution just feels that much more satisfying. The approach works partially due to the symphonic orchestration on Unfinished.

Rather than using the string section as flavor and tonal frosting, Shield Of Wings let their orchestral side flourish in the corners. The production helped a lot with this, as each small moment can be clearly heard. Strings support the melodies throughout, and make this record sound so much more rich and full than a typical four-piece group can. This is music to forget yourself in, full of life and sound and depth. Even when all the band is actually doing is singing a straight-forward melody with genre-standard backing noises, Shield Of Wings manage to do so much more than their peers.

Unfinished feels polished. Passages flow into one another, and songs sound like cohesive and isolatable moments of a larger whole. This works because Shield Of Wings know when to noodle and go off on their own, and they know when to bring everything together for an impressively written chorus. The orchestral pieces, the metal exoskeleton, the dual vocalists, everything was used without being overused.

However, sometimes the music on Unfinished just awkwardly stands around. The promo material for Unfinished references grand movie scores by composers such as Howard Shore and Hans Zimmer. At times, sure. Unfinished can hit you with broad, sweeping, cinematic soundscapes. But moments of boredom also infest this record. Too much time is spent just standing around. Although the extra symphonic bells and compositional magic tricks sound great, they aren’t enough to work as the meat of the record.

The biggest issue with Unfinished is the unnecessary length. I enjoyed what was here, but Shield Of Wings didn’t need to give me so much of it. Unfinished lasts for just over fifty-eight minutes, and the second half drags. Any three tracks at random could have been cut to make for a much better experience. I could get through Unfinished, but I didn’t feel a need to. Unfinished is a concept album, fine. If Shield Of Wings needed the space to fully tell their story, they needed to add something more to their music to justify it.

Unfinished is a good record. Shield Of Wings have proven that, whatever happened over the past eleven or seventeen years, they have the ability to craft enjoyable music. I recommend this to fans of the lighter side of symphonic metal, Fleshgod Apocalypse fans need not apply, and to anyone who has ever listened to a movie soundtrack on purpose. Unfinished wasn’t perfect, but it was worth the wait.

Rating: 7/10

Tracklist:

  1. Crushing Hail
  2. Native Colossus
  3. Breathing
  4. Frozen Harbor
  5. Cedar
  6. Wetland
  7. Mind Of Myth
  8. Sunfire Shower
  9. Come Home
  10. The Scarred Clay Reshaping

Total Playing Time: 58:09

Click here to visit Shield Of Wings’ Bandcamp

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