I've been an obsessed hard rock & heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.
Grey Wolf - "Cimmerian Hordes"
Genre: Melodic Power Metal/NWOTHM
14 Tracks, Run Time: 51:45
Grey Wolf is a New Wave Of Traditional Heavy Metal (NWOTHM) project spearheaded by Brazilian multi-instrumentalist, Paulo "Grey Wolf" Paulinelli, who's released a total of five studio albums and a host of demos, singles, and EPs over the past decade. Cimmerian Hordes, Grey Wolf's latest full-length, was unleashed in Spring 2022 via the true-metal specialist label, Stormspell Records. Paulo performed all of the guitars, bass, vocals, and drum programming (whew!) on Cimmerian Hordes, aside from some guitar solo assistance from Júnior Bonora of fellow Brazilian act Thunderlord on a few tracks.
I first became aware of Paulinelli due to his participation in Brothers Of Sword, a "supergroup" of sorts, whose 2015 release, United For Metal (Stormspell) was a collaborative effort between musicians from several underground Brazilian metal bands. (BTW, a second B.O.S. album is apparently in the works, and being readied for release later this year.) Fans of traditional '80s style "true" heavy metal (ala vintage Iron Maiden, Manowar, and Grave Digger) should definitely dig the sword swingin', poser slayin' action on display within the grooves of Cimmerian Hordes, so let's saddle up and join them as they ride into battle!
The sweeping minute-and-a-half instrumental intro "Vivarium Falls in War" kicks off Cimmerian Hordes in proper steel-jacketed fashion. The sounds of battle, horses and swords clashing take us into the first proper track, the catchy speed-metal number "Cimmerian Hordes." So far so good, but when Paulinelli steps up to the microphone, his vocal style may be a deal breaker for first-time listeners. He's not quite down in the growling death-metal gutter, but Paulo's hoarse, throaty snarl makes gravel-voiced singers like Chris Boltendahl (Grave Digger) sound like Todd La Torre by comparison. It took a few listens to Cimmerian Hordes before I could get past a mental image of a full-metal Popeye decked out in leather and spikes, growling about Conan the Barbarian! ("I yam what I yam, Olive, and what I yam is crushin' my enemies, seein' them driven before me, and hearin' the lamentations of their wimmen folks!")
Vocals aside, by the time I got to "Knights of the Round Table" and "Gladiators," I decided that it's pretty safe to assume that Iron Maiden are Grey Wolf's most major influence. All of the songs so far have had that classic Iron Maiden style gallop going on, and "Rebels" even kicks off with a thumping bass line similar to "Wrathchild."
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The chugging call-to-battle "Raise the Axe" leads into "Wuthering Heights (Heathcliff's Lament)," the biggest surprise on Cimmerian Hordes thus far. This cinematic epic is the longest song on the record at nearly six minutes, and yes, it's apparently based on the classic 1847 English novel by Emily Brontë. Who says power metal can't be literary?
After that brief classic-literature break, Grey Wolf turns the dial back to all-men-play-on-ten skull crushin' power metal with the instrumental "Heavy Metal is in My Blood" and "Screams in the Night," which are straight out of the book of Manowar.
The album proper comes to a close with the power-metal slam of "Soul Devourer," but Stormspell's CD edition of Cimmerian Hordes carries on with four extra bonus tracks that were not on the album's original 2021 Brazilian pressing on Wolf Records. "Stygia," "Master of the Black Circle," "Through the Eyes of Set," and "Thoth-Amon 2020" are taken from the Stygia EP, which was released on cassette and digital in 2020, but this marks the first time they've appeared on CD. Collectors take note!
"Raise The Axe"
The Metal Conclusion
NWOTHM practitioners like Grey Wolf walk a fine line as they have to re-capture the classic 80s heavy metal vibe without unintentionally falling into self-parody. After numerous listens to Cimmerian Hordes, I came to the conclusion that Paulo's heart (of steel) is most definitely in the right place, and his love for true metal shines through most admirably in every note.
Once again, the vocals are the textbook definition of "acquired taste," so Paulo may want to consider handing those duties over to someone else in the future (a guy along the lines of John Bush of Armored Saint/Anthrax fame would sound amazing singing this stuff!), but otherwise Cimmerian Hordes is a pretty damn solid slab that won me over after a bit of a rough start.
© 2022 Keith Abt