Wuthering Heights - Far From The Madding Crowd
Locomotive Music
Symphonic Folk Power Metal
11 songs (61'16")
Release year: 2004
Wuthering Heights, Locomotive Music
Reviewed by Alex
Album of the month

For all of you who care for symphonic power metal and still looking for a New Year’s gift, ask your girlfriends, wives or mothers to buy you the last installment of the Traveler in Time trilogy by not-so-well-known Danish band Wuthering Heights. Far from the Madding Crowd (any relation to Thomas Hardy book?) is going to be a wonderful addition to your collection and a perfect start for 2004. And while you are listening to the album, please, applaud Erik Ravn, songwriter/guitarist/mastermind and now also a bassist, for sticking it out through thick and thin. It is not just the fact he has been hamstrung with the constant line-up changes (after all he is the Wuthering Heights franchise, so other people leaving should not bother him). It is more honing in on the concept and bringing the band evolution to a climax on a third and concluding album that deserves a bow.

I personally loved Within with its folk outdoorsy atmosphere and was glad to see Chris gave it a very high score before I even joined Metalreviews. The debut had everything right, except a slightly thin production and, therefore, lacked punch. I have reviewed To Travel for Evermore on these pages and thought that it was leaning a tad too much in the progressive direction with excellent instrumentalists of Wuthering Heights self-indulging in their art. Without diluting complexity of the delivery Far from the Madding Crowd reintroduced significant folk slant, meshed it with wonderful symphonics and added the sense of overall power through the meaty production by Tommy Hansen (Jailhouse Studios). Two line-up changes of note is Erik Ravn handling the bass all by himself and Nils Patrick Johansson replacing Kristian Andren (old Tad Morose) on vocals. I liked “Krille’s” singing, so I was skeptical at first. The first few phrases on The Road Goes Ever On sounded very boyish, and I thought that this would ruin the experience for me. To rescue it, nowhere else on the record Patrick (Astral Doors, Space Odyssey) reverts to that style. On the opposite, the vocals on Far from the Madding Crowd sound powerful, very Dio like, and Patrick pushes his range constantly.

You will get a good vibe form the first notes of Celtic bagpipe intro of Gather Ye Wild. Perfect for Braveheart, Highlander and Robin Hood movies, it sets an atmosphere. The Road Goes Ever On is a typical perfect opening track for Wuthering Heights. Yet it is more than Hunter in the Dark and The Nevershining Stones of the previous albums. This track incorporates numerous Celtic-Gaelic folk influences with violin and flute melodies, Gary Moore-like riff from Over the Hills and Far Away, Boney M-like melody from Rasputin and incredibly joyous and playful chorus. Boisterous nature of the track needs the galloping rhythm and fast drumming. More songs on the album, Longing for the Woods Part 1, Land of Olden Glory are fast, energetic and full of light.

The centerpiece axis is the three-part epic Longing for the Woods. Interesting percussion and use of banjo on Part 1, alternating explosive double bass and progressive dance rhythms on Part 2 and heavier, slightly extensive, Part 3 end up with the chorus you will be humming in your head for weeks.

The whole record does not have a hint of darkness. Songs may get heavier, more riff oriented (Tree, Highlands Winds), but the sense of life triumphant is pervasive. Slower, balladic The Bollard feels like it is coming to us directly from the Scottish Highlands and the motive in Land of Olden Glory is almost dramatic and heroic. The closer Lament for Lorien with harp, cello and violin is a perfect troubadour-bard song which makes Blind Guardian yield a piece of the throne.

On Far from the Madding Crowd Wuthering Heights rarely go on complex winded progressive instrumental runs. Breaks in Tree and Highlands Winds are very reminiscent of Lost Horizon and their approach to melodic non-vocal parts. And in my book any reference to Lost Horizon is a good thing. When Erik Ravn wants to flash his skills all he has to do is point out to the silly titled instrumental Bad Hobbits Die Hard. The track is the modern folksy helicopter chops driven tribute to Ritchie Blackmore’s Fire Dance fireworks in Rainbow.

The blend of symphonic, power, folk and classical music on Far from the Madding Crowd rivals Blind Guardian on Nightfall and supercedes recent Rhapsody, Skylark, Grave Digger or Virgin Steele albums where at least one of the above four elements falls short. Wuthering Heights deserve to stand on top of the genre with this wonderful climactic trilogy conclusion.

Killing Songs :
The Road Goes Ever On, Longing for the Woods Parts 1 & 2, Highland Winds, The Bollard, Bad Hobbits Die Hard
Alex quoted 92 / 100
Other albums by Wuthering Heights that we have reviewed:
Wuthering Heights - Salt reviewed by Kyle and quoted 93 / 100
Wuthering Heights - The Shadow Cabinet reviewed by Alex and quoted 84 / 100
Wuthering Heights - To Travel For Evermore reviewed by Alex and quoted 77 / 100
Wuthering Heights - Within reviewed by Chris and quoted 84 / 100
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