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Being the Walls of Jericho and Kai Hansen (Gamma Ray, ex-Helloween) fanboy I am, I decided to give a listen to this debut album by the german power metal band Stormwarrior with great expectation. It sounded fine, fun, energetic and as Kai Hansen-worshipping as I wanted (not surprising, considering he also produced the album). So, I hoped that with more listens it would grow on me and become another favourite in my incipient metal journey.
It did not. In fact, I kind of dislike it now. There's a few problems with it that did'nt allow it to grow onme even after 10+ listens (which is a lot for this kind of metal).
1) The choruses are dull. I know germans like to sing and gang shout the song names in the choruses because it can be fun and easy to sing along (and probably because they all worship Balls to the Wall). So pretty much every song on the album does it, dully. They seem like an afterthought to be honest.
German power metal songs shouldn't have boring choruses. It's an unwritten rule every band should be aware of.
2) The singer's voice. Yeah, he does sound like Kai Hansen. A lot.. You can easily mistake them if your aren't listening carefully. And his performance is indeed energetic and very... well, very german. The problem, again, is that most of the lines he sings are dull, and his performance ends up feeling very monotone, even though he can really let loose and give us some higer notes and some harsher shouts. It just doesn't click.
3) It is too much like Walls of Jericho. I just can't have enough of that album. While Gamma Ray happens to be my favorite band and Scanner's first two albums have some similarities (and absolutely recommendable on their own merits) they didn't satisfy my urges to keep murdering in every town and fly high to touch and ride the sky. Though more of these glorious riffs and wonderful melodies sounds awesome, some parts of this album just end up sounding like a watered down tribute to that masterpiece. Iron Prayers just makes me wish I was listening to Metal Invaders instead.
I know all of this has sounded very harsh. But keep in mind that my expectations for this album were high, maybe too high, and it failed to meet them, and this tarnished my enjoyment of it. However, I could still get some enjoyment out of it. The instrumental work, particularly the guitars, is excellent, with many fun riffs and lead melodies, some of which sound like these tremolo-picked ones that Running Wild did so well. And there's two songs that work well and have really good choruses: the fast-paced Deathe By The Blade and the epic closer Chains of Slavery , which features a guest appearance from Kai Hansen.
Fortunately, Stormwarrior would get much better in their following releases. Though the three aforementioned problems would remain somewhat, by Heading Northe the songwriting would be much improved with some memorable choruses and more variety. So I would recommend getting that one first and then Northern Rage, which is like a more furious version of this one.
I thought I would add my two cents to what was a revelation to me when I heard it, Stormwarrior's eponymous 2002 debut album. I figured I would give my opinion of the record, and in doing so give people a well-rounded taste of what to expect should they decide to let go of hard-earned cash, etc.
Stormwarrior is definitely not an original band by any means, and their debut is no exception. It starts out much like a latter day Bathory album, complete with an intro with sounds of (what is assumed to be) viking warfare. Then the charging riffs of "Sign of the Warlorde" come forth and grab the listener. The song is very much in the vein of "Ride the Sky" from Helloween, but I don't mind this at all, the band takes the formula to the extreme on this album, that is; taking the Helloween Walls of Jericho worship just a little too far for comfort.
"Deceiver" is basically their version of "Judas", and we even get a little bit of Manowar worship with "Thunderer" which is basically a rewrite of "Thor the Powerhead" (though with more Helloweeny guitar parts).
"Axewielder" reminds me of "Murderer" from Walls of Jericho, and "Death by the Blade" reminds me of "Cry for Freedom" off the same album.
So what am I doing giving a perfect score to such a deriviative album? Passion, and lots of it. The band even enlisted Kai Hansen himself to produce the proceedings, and it shows. The band seems to have meticulously recreated Walls of Jericho, except with different songs. The production, the mixing, EVERYTHING is similar. It reminds me of the band Witchcraft, in that the band tried to go for a production style that was indicative of the decade they were trying to recreate, in Witchcraft's case, the early 70's, in Stormwarrior's the mid-eighties. In fact, if Kai Hansen's name wasn't attached I would've sworn the album was a Harris Johns Musiclab job. Its that close.
Stormwarrior will have an uphill battle ahead of them to follow this album up. I've heard their sophmore release, and even though its good, it doesn't come close to the intensity of this album.
The fierce melodic speed metal of this album doesn't let up, even for a second.
I am usually not this generous with giving reviews of bands, but this is a perfect album.
Welle, whate doe we have here? Ae Germane speede metale bande withe Kai Hansen'se approvale ofe awesomenesse? Thate hase toe rule righte?
Okay, first off, the whole gimmick with adding an "e" to the end of every word is exceedingly stupid and needs to metaphorically suck out farts and die. I'm not marking down points for that, that would be retarded. It's not detrimental to the music, just really fucking annoying.
Now, superficial vent aside, let's get to the subject of the review, Stormwarrior. About twenty seconds into the first song, I proclaimed out loud "twenty bucks says they're from Germany", and I was right. The German speed metal sound is a very distinct one, and is one of the only styles that one can immediately identify the geographic location of a band upon hearing them. Frankly, I love that sound, but Stormwarrior has taken worship to the extreme. As much fun as this album is, there is not a single original note throughout the entirety of the record.
The one word that best describes Stormwarrior's self titled debut is "Deja-vu". Not one riff doesn't sound like something you heard on Walls of Jericho almost twenty years prior. Usually this is a good thing, but this is blatant, unimaginative worship on an almost Trivium-esque scale. This doesn't sound as much like a throwback to the good ol' days of 1985 as it is undoubtedly attempting to be. Instead, it sounds like a cover band, albeit a very good one. Deceiver might as well have been named "Murderer", as it's the same goddamn song. Even the vocalist sounds EXACTLY like Kai Hansen. Jens Carlsson sounds nearly identical to Hansi Kursch, so why do I lambast Thunder Axe for sounding nearly identical to Kai Hansen? Because Persuader actually accomplishes something that Stormwarrior merely attempt yet sadly fail at, writing orignal, creative, and unique songs.
As if it wasn't bad enough that this was essentially a half assed attempt at writing Walls of Jericho part II, they decided to take their unoriginality to the next level by having Kai Hansen produce the album, contribute a solo or two and some backing vocals, and even cover Heavy Metal (Is the Law) with him singing! Jesus man, I guess if you can't hide your blatant plagiarism, you might as well have the original writer endorse it eh? I really don't see what people are talking about when they say that Stormwarrior "puts an original spin on the old style". What original spin? There is none! The music (which, mind you, is what actually counts) sounds like every early/mid eighties German speed metal record sounded like. I'm sorry, but changing the lyrical subject matter from fantasy or pirates to vikings does not make one a creative individual. Stormwarrior is to Walls of Jericho and Gates to Purgatory as what The Crusade is to Master of Puppets.
Now, despite all this negativity, this isn't actually a bad album. As the title states, this is top notch mediocrity. They do nothing original, but they do it extremely well. Even though this is pretty much 50 minutes of rehashed Helloween and Running Wild riffs/melodies, it's still a fun experience the first time through. The album definitely loses it's touch after a couple spins, but some songs (Deathe by the Blade, Signe of the Warlorde) are honestly excellent songs. The production is excellent, the musicianship is great, and when you really think about it, all of the elements to a great album are there... the only lacking quality is originality.
This album was tailor made for early speed metal fans, but it's only an amazing album if you can look past the glaring unoriginality. On the whole, it's a decent record. It gets boring by the end due to a very severe lack of variety, but again, it isn't terrible. I would say that Kai would be disappointed with a band trying so hard yet failing to capture the magic that he emanates, but apparently he's so proud of this band that he made sure he blew his load all over the album. So a D+ to Stormwarrior. It's a fun record on the first spin, but that's about it. Every last song sounds like the one before it, which all incidentally sound like something we've all heard a million times before.
Let’s set something straight, the far better comparison to make to describe Stormwarrior is between Running Wild. The same heavy production and riffage, and Vikings elicit similar imagery to pirates. This really bears few congruencies with the happy and exuberant speed metal offered up on Walls of Jericho, which actually broke quite drastically from the normal German speed metal sound of the 80s. However, I will agree that they must have worshipped at the altar of German speed metal when they were young, because this recalls the explosion of bands forming that genre in the 80s.
Unfortunately, Stormwarrior’s debut also falls in line with most bands of that era in terms of quality. Nothing about this album really differentiates itself or adds even incrementally to the genre. The foremost among these problems resides in that particular bugbear I spend so much time upon: production. Having listened to pretty much everything by Kai Hansen, this doesn’t sound like something he would produce. I would almost call this brutal speed metal, similar to Running Wild, except Running Wild softens their sound with melody, catchiness and superb songwriting. Stormwarrior neglects these important qualities and instead displays an almost thrash-like mentality, as if this were their attack on the glut of “flower metal” bands infesting Europe. A valiant though misguided effort.
The other flaw marring this album is the vocalist, who when not drowned out by the riffs fails to exude any of the requisite ability of a speed metal singer. Where are the insistent choruses and epic melodies? You are singing about Vikings and yet I never feel the need to howl with glory or at least pillage the fridge. It is pretty hard to ruin such an exquisite theme, but Stormwarrior manages.
Of course, the riffs do kick copious amounts of ass, especially because good speed metal of this strain appears increasingly rarely in modern metal, particularly with Running Wild running on empty lately. Consequently, while nothing even remotely original graces this album, at least you can give Stormwarrior credit for reviving a genre from its inglorious death in the 90s.
This is truly a great album. Really. Let me explain.
I remember back in 1986 hearing great metal albums for the first time definitely gave a lasting impression on me. I was quite fond of the European speed metal scene, especially all the good stuff that was coming from Germany (Helloween, Running Wild). These guys sound exactly like they are from this era.
We are talking about fast, no hold barred, german speed metal (think about WoJ-era Helloween, but with more riffs and agression). The songs are mostly fast paced, with thundering double-kicks drums, tightly woven dual-guitar harmonies and nice agressive vocals, clear and with a lot of range. The talent is definitely there, the solos simply shreds, great performance overall. The production by Kai Hansen is crisp and powerful, but not to polished; it gives a vintage feel to the music.
Their main strength is to write great songs with memorable hooks, that will remain in your memory only after 2-3 listens. I can't find a single fault with this record. Yes this stuff has been done before. It is not overly original, but these guys do it with so much enthusiasm you are forced to bow to the greatness of their work here. Get this album pronto, even if you will probably have to mailorder it.
Best tracks: Signe of The Warlorde, Sons of Steele, The Axewielder, Thunderer....all the rest are great too!!