On paper Winterage would seem like the next in line of Italian symphonic power metal outfits with nothing new to bring to the table. Their debut album The Harmonic Passage (2015) was a jumbled affair, though not without promise. Taking six years to craft the follow up could only mean good things to come, right? And at the immediate forefront, The Inheritance of Beauty is better planned than their debut, but also largely lacking its charm and playful nature. A sound lending from both, and landing somewhere between the operatic twists and turns of old school Nightwish and the theatric narratives of classic Rhapsody, never feeling wholly unique but a further take on a sound others have already done better. There are obviously great moments throughout, but it rarely stretches beyond a full song, and the album manages to lose momentum a couple of times over. The Mutineers is a mid album sea shanty which - though Daniele Barbarossa’s vocals are pretty great - doesn’t fit in and just feels out of place, while La morte di Venere is the token ballad that is just that; a token ballad - though the concept of Venus’s death could make for a thrilling epic if done right, especially given the great looking cover art; the concept is squandered here on an Italian ballad just like Rhapsody used to make ‘em - but with opera.
Though its qualities are several and undeniable, it still suffers from that most Italian of sins; as given away most indicatively especially by the spoken outro that concludes the album in otherwise pretty great The Amazing Toymaker. This kind of cringe worthy, pseudo intellectual element - originally stemming from Nightwish (who still’ve used it well, mostly) - captures the biggest issue with this release; namely its bordering on the pretentious. Many of the tracks are too long for their own good, overstaying their welcome by a minute or so, rather than ending on a concise, favorable note; this starts already on the overblown Overture (others just call it “intro”, but ok). Of Heroes and Wonders is the exception; a shorter, to the point blast of fun and charm, Barbarossa pulling some Giacomo Voli (Rhapsody) like stunts. The same would go for Oblivion Day, another shorter track that lets the operatic chanting stick to the background while the keyboards and Gabriele Boschi’s violin take the lead parts.
For all my griping, The Amazing Toymaker contains heaps of great moments throughout its sixteen minute runtime; bridging several parts, it takes those playful twists from the debut and infuses them in a well crafted epic. The thriftiest guitars on the entire album, progressive shifts and sweet melodic timing, with a mystical atmosphere to boot permeate the album’s finale - that charming mid section where the toys present themselves is the most inspired and magic infused moment on the album - and it’s too bad it’s dragged down by its crappy pseudo intellectual inclinations. The highlights are not enough to save the album, however. At an hour’s runtime, The Inheritance of Beauty is pretty much all over the place, trying to cram some of everything in there; from attempts at folksy sea shanties, bagpipey “overtures” to overblown soundtrack epics. And that’s the biggest issue here; Winterage have stuffed their sophomore effort with so much of everything that it fails to find an identity of its own. There are certainly highlights and good parts and at times Winterage show real quality, but with each listen the album seems to engage less and less, and not just on paper.
Standout tracks: Of Heroes and Wonders, Oblivion Day, The Amazing Toymaker