Wuthering Heights

Salt

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Wuthering Heights' fifth album carries a title -- Salt -- as simple and subtle as its contents are complex and flamboyant. In fact, its ocean-inspired lyrics follow in a long line of meticulously composed conceptual story lines, floridly supported by the Danish group's idiosyncratic brand of folk-inflected power metal and dazzling musicianship. Sure enough, from the bone-chilling opening chants to "ROW! ROW! ROW!" heard on album intro "Away!" through to the storm-tossed swells drowning 16-minute closer "Lost at Sea," Wuthering Heights plumb the unfathomable depths with evocative descriptions and scenic soundtracks. But, thanks to the group's recurring attraction to untowardly "happy" speed metal melodies for adrenalin-fueled shanties like "The Mad Sailor" and "Weather the Storm" (or the misplaced environmental consciousness of "The Last Tribe"), this work's ambience is not nearly as oppressive as initially imagined; if anything, some extreme-minded metal fans might find it too chipper. But pirate metal partisans of all ages -- be they veteran mates of Running Wild's first voyages under Jolly Roger, or fresh-faced cabin boys apprenticing under Alestorm and their mead-pouring wenches -- won't hesitate for a second before embarking on Wuthering Heights' creaky schooner. Which is to say that Moby Dick this is not, but Salt offers a whole of a lot more to sink one's teeth into -- or oars, as it were -- than the average power metal album.

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