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Did you know there was such a thing as Dwarf Metal?
Follow-up question: Do the mithril-mining descendants of Durin the Deathless actually thrash?
When you stop to think about it, of course dwarves would be into metal.
We’re talking the fantasy race here, to be clear—the squat, bearded, mining-obsessed warriors who populate mythology, hugely popular MMORPGS, and of course, the writings of one J.R.R. Tolkien. In that last case, these heavy-drinking people are depicted as living almost entirely underground, toiling away in dank mines. Their idea of a vacation is getting to lodge their battle axes into a troll’s forehead.
Yeah, these people are going to respond to a face-melting guitar riff and a head-banging drumline way more than flutes and lyres.
The question almost isn’t “Did you know there was such a thing as Dwarf Metal” but rather “How did it take so long for this to come into being?”
Like mithril forming under the earth’s crust, Dwarf Metal (also referred to as Dwarven Metal) began in the mind of young Francesco Cavalieri, from Pontedera, Italy. Growing up on a steady diet of Tolkien, World of Warcraft, and MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball, Cavalieri and his mates found a way to combine all their loves into a completely unique metal sub-genre.
“I grew up with my grandparents, and they were only into Italian music from the ‘50s and ‘60s,” says Cavalieri. “My first two loves in music were Queen and Michael Jackson.” After mainlining bands like Pantera, Slayer, and Metallica through MTV and online downloads, however, Cavalieri knew he’d found his true calling.
“I was always singing—since I was four or five. I always liked to sing,” he says. “Then my friends and I started singing songs together from Linkin Park and Red Hot Chili Peppers, just joking around. But then we eventually formed a band when we were around 13 or 14 years old.”
Looking for a way to “stand out from the crowd,” Cavalieri and his bandmates tapped into their other childhood obsessions. “I played World of Warcraft. And then the Lord of the Rings movies were released in 2001. These years changed my life,” says Cavalieri. “I realized that I wanted to be a warrior!”
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Charting their course
The band—now called Wind Rose after the way of graphically presenting wind and weather conditions for use in navigation—started out as a progressive power metal band, keeping its true intentions hidden while they established their cred.
“The idea was to create a story, a Lord of the Rings-like story,” explains Cavalieri. “But we understood that to make a concept album requires a little bit more of fame. It's not easy for people to approach Wind Rose's music for the first time and understand what we’re talking about!” After their 2012 debut album Shadows over Lothadruin, Wind Rose went full dwarf on their second album, Wardens of the West Wind. “The song The Breed of Durin in 2015 is actually the first dwarf metal song we wrote.”
Cavalieri, along with bandmates Claudio Falconcini (guitar), Federico Meranda (keyboards), Cristiano Bertocchi (bass), and Federico Gatti (drums), then began honing their stage presentation, enlisting the help of LARP costume-makers to create their dwarven armor. However, they quickly realized they needed to find a middle ground between cosplay and actual battle-ready armaments. “You see these people at Blizzcon and Comic Con with just the most beautiful armor,” says Cavalieri. “But it’s too big and fragile for us to use onstage. It’s not made for our kind of work!”
Wind Rose then recorded a cover of a 2010 parody song called “Diggy Diggy Hole,” written by UK-based comedy podcast YOGSCAST. The original song reached 50 million people worldwide on YouTube, and Cavalieri saw it as a way to give the band more visibility and show that they have a sense of humor about what they’re doing. “It’s a song about dwarfs! And it’s a funny song we can have some fun playing onstage.”
It proved infectious, and fans began buying into the story with an enthusiasm that isn’t always popular among event security staff. Cavalieri laughs when asked about Wind Rose fans: “Yeah, they get into it. With pickaxes, swords, chain mail…We did a show in the U.S. and they confiscated 20 or 30 weapons at the door. One guy brought a real sword. I was like, ‘What the fuck?’ I appreciate the effort, bro, but you can’t go into the middle of 500 people with a real sword. That’s crazy.”
Finding their tribes
Cavalieri understands that probably the hardest thing for people to wrap their heads around is that Dwarf Metal didn’t originate in Norway or Sweden, but Italy.
“A lot of people who listen to our band—even in Italy—are like, ‘Oh, these guys are Italian?’ But to be honest, Italy isn’t the best for this kind of music. So we go to countries outside of Italy, kick ass, and come back heroes!”
These international voyages may also help great a larger universe of fantasy-themed metal. The Finnish band Finntroll already integrates Scandinavian folklore into their songs and, one assumes, make for natural enemies for dwarves. “No, no, we don’t fight them, we are good friends,” says Cavalieri. “They have been an inspiration for bands like us, the Viking metal of the early 2000s. We have a lot of respect for them. But if they want to do a tour that’s Dwarves against Trolls, that would be cool!’
Just as long as the fans leave their broadswords at home.
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⚔️ Learn more about Wind Rose and Dwarven Metal