“…and my axe!”
Raleigh’s Knightmare is a rare breed indeed. The North Carolina rock music scene is generally dominated by several varieties of -core bands, scrambling for scraps of territory amongst themselves and riding the coattails of popular radio “Nothing But Rock” staples. Every once in a while, though, something beautiful emerges to soar above the grey goo like some kind of majestic, iridescent eagle. Knightmare is that eagle. Maybe you already guessed where I was going with that metaphor.
Wolves of Retribution is the band’s sophomore effort, released at the end of 2015 as a follow-up to 2012’s Damned and Forsaken. The band is a child of a post-Iron Maiden world, drawing heavily from classic 80s metal acts and showcasing intricate harmonic and rhythmic structure throughout the entire album and relying heavily on power-metal riffage and interplay between its guitarists. All but one of the cuts are on the longer side of five minutes; these songs are not for the short of attention span.
The album, understandably for a group of this genre, stays fairly upper-tempo for the majority of its runtime—no sappy ballads or acoustic numbers here. We start off strong with the upbeat “Children of Hell” and the single worthy title track “Wolves of Retribution” to showcase the group’s strongest characteristics — a melodic approach to songwriting, the vocalist’s soaring yet aggressive vocal approach, and lyrics straight out of a fevered nightmare after a week-long Skyrim binge. The group does flirt with slower numbers such as the appropriately-named “Demon’s Waltz,” which contains a rare acoustic bridge after the waltz gives way to a faster-paced melodic solo section.
While the album is full of excellent songwriting and provides numerous samples of attention-grabbing melodies and interesting rhythms, its biggest flaw lies in its execution. There are a few, perhaps too many, spots on this album where a song could have benefited from a better-tracked or better-edited vocal or guitar take. It simply happens too often, and it serves to undermine the song. I walk away from this album feeling like I wasn’t listening to the best possible performance of the material. Having said all of that, I must still heartily recommend Wolves of Retribution to any metal fan. It’s sure to put hair on your chest and get a few numbers stuck in your head.