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Lost at sea - 55%

Derigin, June 17th, 2021
Written based on this version: 2021, Digital, Independent

The first (and, at the time of this review, only) album by Dutch band Stormbreker, Overzee is a competent, but relatively short and undeniably flawed work. It's competent in that the artists who contributed to it have been around long enough to have developed some skill with their chosen instruments; they are not novices at the craft. In fact, each one has been in other projects - some shared - that are recognizable and familiar to fans of folk and the lighter side of pagan metal: Heidevolk, Slechtvalk, :Nodfyr: may ring a bell. Average bands with relatively average output with Stormbreker being yet another one.

Why average and not better than average? Well, for one, you're not given much to work with in this album. Clocking in at just under 11 minutes, you're treated to two tracks, both themed around Dutch seafaring. The band has clearly put effort into trying to capture that theme, with both tracks centered on this idea of travelling overseas "Overzee", directionless "Richtingloos", and at the mercy of the sea. But, and it is a big 'but', that's really hard to do in 11 minutes. You can try all your might to capture the essence of the sea - this behemoth of a watery phenomenon - but you do the sea no justice by limiting your output to what amounts to nothing more than a demonstration piece. What's the point of putting out a thematic work if the only outcome are a couple songs that barely flow into one another and provide no story, no thread, no closure? It almost seems silly to gripe about this, but I can't help but feel this purposefully comes off as a half-baked and barely passable effort. You're trying to be epic... so be epic. Don't cut yourself short with a short EP.

That same sentiment is true for the music, too. There's nothing inherently bad about the music, or the way the artists play, or even their choice of folk instruments (in this case synthesized through keyboard). None of it is offensive to the ears; it's rather run-of-the-mill melodic folk metal, played slow with a fair bit of reverb. The guitar and drum playing are steady, skilled, but basic, with nothing that elicits any shock-and-awe in any direction. The mixing is a mess, with instruments humming like a bee hive in the background, and vocals a bit too forward and in your face, so to speak. That type of vocal style - where words are sung deep and elongated, like you're screaming Ooooohdiiinn off the bow of a ship - is fitting for this theme, but comes off as excessive. There's no variation to the vocals, either. As far as production goes, it's good and polished, if you're into that, but hardly anything praiseworthy nowadays. It's nothing to write home about.

I do think I might've given this album a bit of an unfair beating, though. It isn't bad, it's just not great. That's an important thing to keep in mind here. You're not looking at something that is going to be album of the year here, or really counts as much of an album. These guys also obviously know how to play this style of music, and have a passion about their themes, I just wish they'd put their years of experience to use, take the next step, and produce something extraordinary. Try new things. Expand your horizons. Go beyond what you're used to. Be the seafarers you sing about.