Review Summary: Gwynbleidd seems to be a promising band, drifting from worse-than-Akerfeldt category to actually a very enjoyable music. Nostalgia is a good example of this, where greatness (or at least very-goodness) and mediocrity meet together.
Being generally unhappy about the long waiting period between the release of Watershed and Heritage (and definitely not ecstatic hearing that Akerfeldt decided to castrate himself as a death-metal vocalist for an unknown period of time) I started searching for something that would fill the resulting void. Browsing through a fan forum I found a topic about bands sounding like Opeth and therein a mention about Gwynbleidd. Name sounded familiar – probably some of you know The Witcher, a popular RPG game basing on a Polish fantasy novel with the same name. Gwynbleidd’s name stems from it and after some checking – yes, these are Poles living in NY! I’m always happy to hear some promising (almost) home-made music.
Considering my motivation to find a replacement for one of my favorite bands Gwynbleidd has some big shoes to fill in and expectedly after making a few initial notes for the review I found a substantial amount of them comparing those two bands with each other. Indeed, Nostalgia as a whole sounds very much like an album inspired by Opeth’s nowadays less popular early works from the 90’. Dark atmosphere? Check. Acoustic interludes allowing for a breath from death-metal main parts? Check. Deep growls appearing out of nowhere? Some clean vocals? Hell, they are there too and sometimes they really sound like Akerfeldt’s. Yet (and partially also because of it) after a few listens I found my reaction to be ambivalent.
My first conclusion for anyone after hearing the whole album would be to actually listen to it to the end. First three songs are the least appealing for me – they seem to be watered down versions of things we know oh so well. Some of it is due to bad production – first song’s solos mostly drown in dense music, just like unexposed, short and randomly placed growls, failing to make any real impact on the generic atmosphere. Things do not get any better with track two or three and when Stormcalling starts after 20 seconds I pause to play Demon of the Fall for a moment. The similarity is striking, still the American band’s intro isn’t even close to deliver such a powerful blow to your defenseless butt like the Swedes did. Until now Gwynbleidd looks like Opeth’s fat ugly brother that simply pales in comparison to what has already been done 10 years ago much much better. Though during writing the review I found that I enjoy more this part of album when it’s played more in the background it’s hardly a good thing to say “it gets better with distraction”.
Fortunately, it does get better later. Two minutes into Stormcalling and you get a cool acoustic interlude and a first memorable guitar solo that drifts me finally engaged into a very intensive ending. Wow, didn’t expect that! A short instrumental sustains the atmosphere and leads to another great track Thawing Innocence. Stare into the Sun and Canvas for Departure continue this honorable tradition, even though the last one might seem a bit too inspired by the slow middle part of Under the Weeping Moon – they actually stole a whole guitar line from Opeth, making the title of the album quite a pun. Faster tempo, powerful growls and enjoyable wall of sound make the second part a breathless recovery from the initial festival of mediocrity.
To sum up, Gwynbleidd seems to be a very promising band, drifting from worse-than-Akerfeldt category to actually a very good music. As a relatively young group obviously very much influenced by the masters in the genre they perform in they seem to be suffering somewhat from identity crisis and hardly stand chance in a direct comparison, having yet to write a true stand-out. Still when I think about where Opeth was at the beginning I can’t wait to hear their new album and see whether they evolve into something genuine or just make another attempt at My Arms, Your Hearse. Until then I’ll be very happy to listen to at least some parts of this uneven album.