With two well received releases already and several big show appearances in recent times, Black Wings is the culmination of several years of solid work from Sydney's Bane of Isildur. Fans of the band are unlikely to be disappointed as this holds up to the reputation for epic melodic death metal they've built through their previous EPs.
The most obvious touchstone for Bane of Isildur is Amon Amarth, from their basic style right down to their choice of subject matter and band name. So on Black Wings, Bane of Isildur adopt a somewhat jubilant death metal with folk-derived melodies and with none of the chugg-chugging of the Gothenburg set nor the slab-like riffs of the Florida bands. To this they add a particularly grim element like Immortal, especially with the vocals which tend toward an icy shriek. It's all well put together and the melodies add that epic touch that evokes wide vistas of battlefields where men fight hand-to-hand, possibly in the snow, or on an isthmus in the marshlands. This is certainly at its most effective on the album's longer tracks, "The War of Gods and Men" and "Of Crimson and Cold Steel".
What the album lacks is its own real identity. Amon Amarth and particularly Unleashed have been doing this for a long time and while Bane of Isildur is an admirable local alternative, they don't really bring anything of themselves to the table. Here and there too, some of the songs are padded out by sections of repetitive riffing that just seem bolted on to make them longer the same way (but less drastically so) that Dark Order does on Cold War of the Condor. It's true that the epic nature of the songs makes it hard not to feel a kind of rousing triumph, though. I also felt that the six-and-a-half-minute "Outro" was overdoing things a bit, and the less said about the atrocious AC/DC cover, the better.
That might sound like a big pile of negatives, but the fact is Bane of Isildur is a good band with a good sound and Black Wings really isn't a bad album. But they do need to tighten the songwriting a bit and develop a real character of their own if they want to progress, which I hope they do.
1. Chosen Path
2. Last Alliance
3. The War of Gods and Men
5. Furious Hunt
6. Born to Scorch the Earth
8. Of Crimson and Cold Steel
9. A Red Dawn
11. Hell's Bells