So I wasn't real nuts about WINDS OF PLAGUE's "Decimate the Weak", although still thought it was a solid (6/10), if slightly directionless album, that certainly has its moments. And that's pretty much my assessment of "The Great Stone War", and album with some good ideas and a handful of good songs, but a generally uneven, sometimes scattered compositional approach.
On the whole, the symphonic elements that will remind most of DIMMU BORGIR (sans the heightened level of orchestral grandeur) are refreshing and typically done better than peers like BLEEDING THROUGH, which isn't necessarily saying a lot. The sparkling keys of "Soldiers of Doomsday" are crisp and clean and the classiness of the symphonic elements on "Our Requiem" — one of the more memorable cuts with a fairly effective use of gang shouts — really shines through, while the narration telling of the apocalyptic battle for the planet that opens and closes the tale is convincing. And therein lies the rub. The atmosphere is grand and the concept is interesting, if not exactly original, but I hear a lot of cool "parts" and only a handful of gripping songs. Granted, the band is telling a story here, which is always a tricky proposition across an album's worth of material. And yes, there are breakdowns and fortunately they're written to fit the songs, rather than randomly placed for maximum crowd participation.
If every song were a heat-seeking missile like "Forged in Fire", one in which the band's varied elements reach synergistic heights, then "The Great Stone War" would be one of 2009's more notable efforts. Heck, even the spoken vocals, which often come off grating in metalcore, work well on the track. There is nothing even remotely repellant about "The Great Stone War" and I like what WINDS OF PLAGUE are trying to do. Ambition definitely counts for something here. I always end up feeling like I should dig this band more than I do though. The music just never stays with me for very long. At the end of the day, that's really what matters.