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Sophomore slump? No. Sophomore SLAUGHTER! - 92%

BloodIronBeer, October 11th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2004, CD, Remedy Records

On their sophomoric Northern Rage, Stormwarrior moved from almost pure speed metal to a balance of speed and power metal. In doing so, they really seemed to ease into their own sound, and feel more comfortable. Here, they move more into the sound they were meant to play. Not dead serious, but definitely not bordering on self-parody like some moments of their debut album. Melody-driven, and willing to reign in the speed, however infrequently. Thy Laste Fyre, Welcome Thy Rite and To Foreign Shores are definitely more power metal - without relinquishing the grit of the heavier tracks.

The idea is the same though: riff-driven, swift German speed metal that only really relents long enough to let you catch your breath. Enough different European power metal influences have been allowed in so the stark Helloween comparison cannot be made anymore. Thundering drums with constant double bass, and quick tremolo-picked quintessentially European guitar work are still the framework, but the melodies are much stronger. It feels like the extra effort was put forth to take an idea from being good, to great. The melodies are more lyrical, they just have better flow – they're simply catchier. Both the guitar and the vocal melodies.

Maybe I'm imagining this, but it seems like every two tracks after the opening have a theme. Tracks 2 and 3 are the “I've come to shred your face off” pummeling speed metal from the debut album. Tracks 4 and 5 are much more power metal a la middle era Gamma Ray. Tracks 6 and 7 are mid-tempo and old school heavy metal anthems. Tracks 8 and 9 both start with very Judas Priest style speed metal riffs. It's capped off with a pretty solid “epic” track, but in between there is no weak link.

This album is another of Stormwarrior's that has no truly weak songs. In fact, I don't think this album has any remarkable flaws, other than the 2:30 opening track which is a waste of everyone's time. Maybe it would be okay if it was 15 seconds.

As for highlights, there is no question about it. Warning: storytime ahead.

I woke up one day with a melody stuck in my head, and spent hours trying to figure out what it was. How or why I had this melody stuck in my head, having not listening to this album for many years, I don't know – but it drove me insane. Picked up my guitar, played the riff countless times, listened through dozens of albums. It was stuck in my head for hours before I figured it out – and about a week or so afterwards. What is this song? I thought it was Gamma Ray, a band I always thought had some of the greatest melodies.

No. The band was Stormwarrior, the album was Northern Rage, and the song was Welcome Thy Rite.

Depending on the day you asked me, I might tell you this is the best guitar melody in the history of metal. If every song on the album were somehow this strong, I would have to break my own rule of never handing out a perfect score and give this album a 100%. I'm trying my best to not sound hyperbolic, but this is just the truth.

The song begins with the epic melody, and the march-like drums building tension; suddenly everything but the guitar drops out, playing a breakneck speed metal riff, then the drums drop back in with the second guitar playing the main melody over top. And this is what it's all about. It's just doesn't get any fucking better than that moment right there.

The realization that the melody wasn't from Gamma Ray kind of helped cement one thing in my mind - the student had surpassed the master. Truthfully, I used to consider Gamma Ray among my very favorite bands, holding Kai as an untouchable figure in metal, but these days, I'm much more likely to be listening to Stormwarrior. And the irony of Kai helping produce this album isn't lost on me. Make no mistake, Kai is a seminal and legendary figure in metal, but Lars Ramcke's name should be right there with Kai's.

One of the only albums in this style that is stronger than this, is the album they followed this up with. Without question, Northern Rage is a classic of speed and power metal.

The lighte of dawne fills the lande. - 90%

Diamhea, September 27th, 2015

Stormwarrior's eponymous debut was pretty much unabashed Helloween worship, and analogously raw compared to the remainder of the band's catalogue. It stands in (relatively) stark contrast to the more Iron Savior-esque tendencies of Thunder & Steele and the ultra-polished songwriting of Heading Northe. Sophomore effort Northern Rage obviously falls closer to Heading Northe, and is in many ways the first major step concerning the evolution of Stormwarrior's approach. Naturally, these aren't great stylistic leaps or anything, as Stormwarrior have budged all but an inch since their inception, and they embody the universal stereotype of German power/speed metal bands. I get the sense that Lars Ramcke has totally embraced this impression with endearing returns. How anyone can write five engaging album's worth of lyrics revolving around the same picture book Viking tropes continues to astound me. Ramcke goes by "Thunder Axe" for this album, so for those keeping track at home, add that to his list of titles, including Steelcrusader, The Enforcer, Child of Fyre, Metal Avenger et al.

With that cleared up, worth delving right into is the songwriting, which does indeed portend the later material in many ways. For the most part, Northern Rage cooks up a healthy speed metal blitz, although there is a more epic slant that is occasionally employed in contrast with the fist-raisers like "Valhalla" and "Óðinn's Warriors." The choruses sound rightfully big and dominate a large swath of the melodic appeal, with "Thy Laste Fyre" being the most stratospheric standout in this regard. Elsewhere, more structured rippers like "Sigrblót" pillage and plunder by order of Falko Reshöft's fill-happy percussive torrent. Northern Rage actually comes to a delightfully evocative head with the sprawling "Lindisfarne," which presumably follows the narrative concerning yet another battle. Only this time, Stormwarrior actually tap the brakes long enough to introduce some soaring dual leads along with that neat spoken diatribe near the end.

Ramcke hadn't fully realized his ability to emulate Kai Hansen by this point, and his delivery is more gravelly and unrefined than later on. This grants Northern Rage some measure of distinction within the Stormwarrior catalogue, as it (somewhat) bridges the pure anthem aesthetic of the later material with the vibe of the oft-forgotten debut. I really enjoyed the borderline death growls used mainly on "Bloode Eagle" and sporadically elsewhere. The barbarous, ominous disposition of the rollicking and galloping rhythm pulls the majority of tunes forward, and I find little fault deeming Northern Rage one of the darker albums in the band's arsenal. While "Heroic Deathe" is functional enough as an opener, starting on "Valhalla" the band hardly misses a step, and this is an easy record to leave on with no inkling of exercising the old skip button.

It is absolutely cheesy as hell, but the typical layman interpretation of the mindless fantasy dreck that clogs the European power metal scene hardly applies here. Stormwarrior never cut their riffs short in order to meet other ends. Even the band's most melodic and pompous material like "Sacred Blade" is stuffed to the gills with speed metal lethality. As for Northern Rage, it sees the band coming into the fine form initially realized in full on Heading Northe and continued to this day. My favorite tune here is "Sigrblót," and fans of pure, epic German heavy metal like Wizard and Rebellion will be right at home here. In fact, this is a great starting point for those curious about Stormwarrior, and of course a high recommendation overall.

Awesome withe an extra E - 87%

Andromeda_Unchained, August 17th, 2012

You just can’t argue with Stormwarrior’s Northern Rage. The album is a glorious ode to the gods of German speed and power metal. Everything you could possibly want from the style is contained within, even the Grandfather of it all: Kai Hansen who produced, mixed, mastered and helped with recording, not to mention some additional vocals and a cheeky guitar solo in “Welcome Thy Rite”.

After a token intro, Stormwarrior set their controls to full speed ahead and blaze across forty-five minutes of German power metal bliss. The guitars are fast and raucous, with seemingly no restraint, bustling riffs, furious solos, all of which is backed up by a juggernaut rhythm section, with thunderous bass and mighty crashing and speeding drums.

Imagine a Gamma Ray album on steroids, and you’ll have a good idea of what Northern Rage sounds like. The first time I ever heard this album I almost passed out from an awesome overload. Anyone who loves early Helloween and pretty much any Gamma Ray will no doubt find themselves in a similar situation with Northern Rage. Performances are absolutely stellar, and the band are bustling with mighty youthful energy. Lars’ vocals are pure awesome Kai Hansen-styled fare, although I would say Lars’ was a little rougher which fits great. The production is ideal, with a good amount of the gloss usually found in the genre stripped right back, while the sound is natural and energetic and was the perfect canvas for Stormwarrior’s sound at the time.

Naming standouts would be pretty ridiculous as once “Heroic Deathe” beats you into submission the rest of the album swiftly passes by in a whirlwind of German power metal delight. I do have to mention “Valhalla”, which is my personal favourite Stormwarrior song; “Valhalla” embodies almost everything that originally drew me to the power metal genre: Massive chorus, furious double kicking, mighty guitar riffs, oh yes! That’s the business right there!

Northern Rage has to be one of the finest, balls-out, no messing around, face-melting power metal albums around. The energy and quality is comparable to the likes of Unification, Somewhere Out In Space, and Black Hand Inn. Whilst maybe not as good as the aforementioned releases (Northern Rage is admittedly one dimensional), Stormwarrior came pretty close here. It’s a shame they aimed to steer away from the pure German power metal worship, and as a result, Northern Rage will probably always remain my favourite from Stormwarrior. Seriously recommended listening, power metal fans should not be without!

Originally written for

  • http://blackwindmetal.com
  • Unbelievably Strong - 99%

    JunaidKhan, January 2nd, 2008

    Stormwarrior's second effort is nothing short of outstanding. In a genre that's plagued with monotonous old-schoolers (who are, to be honest, well beyond their best) such as Gamma Ray, Helloween and Hammerfall, Stormwarrior stand out as a true speed metal band with war/viking lyrics.

    As you'd expect from an album of this genre, the double-beats run throughout the tracks while the blast beats manage to keep you on your feet at all times. The guitars are simply awesome. The band uses both melodic tremelo riffing as well as the regular power-chord-based melodies in all their tracks, the highlight of which are Heroic Deathe and Odin's Warriors.

    I'm actually surprised some fellow reviewers here were not moved by the solos. If the comparatively long solo of Heroic Deathe or the whammy-filled solo of Odin's Warriors didn't have any effect on them, they were probably dead when they were listening to this.

    Overall, Stormwarrior is a band that's not as recognized as some other popular names but this album seriously blows away anything by any band of the genre. It's catchy while being aggressive, the vocals are not whiny (this is manly stuff, Dragonland fans, STAY AWAY), the album is hard-hitting but the riffs are very memorable and overall, the production quality is top-notch. You can play this album on your hi-fi and not hear any out-of-place riff or any "earthy" sound.

    Stormwarrior will come out with their new album in the first quarter of 2008 but until then, Northern Rage will have to suffice. This album is as masterful as it is catchy and any fan of viking-lyrics and fast power metal would absolutely love this.

    Back to the Eighties! - 91%

    phantomofdeath, October 16th, 2005

    If it wasn't for the very good production (handled by Gamma Ray's Kai Hansen btw.), you'd believe this is a band of the 80s, when heavy metal was about long-haired leather wearing guys singing about beautiful subjects as war, satan and evil pinball machines ;). Stormwarrior's second full-length album really has all the ingrediants that made good old Helloween so enjoyable: a never stopping speed-riff-assault, excellent leads and soloing and harsh yet melodic vocals. Lead vocalist and guitarist Lars Ramcke (aka Thunder Axe) is definitely more Hansen than Kiske and knows his vocal range. In addition, he takes responsibility for the songwriting and surprisingly is the only remaining member of the band's first album line-up.

    Yes, the music on here is very traditional speed metal. Opeth groupies, stop reading this review now because Northern Rage is raw, heavy and insanely fast! This easily shits on your Suck Life or Boringrise. Sure, there's not a lot of variation and the songs follow the common verse-chorus-verse-chorus-..etc-pattern but with that kind of music it works damn well! You will be too busy banging your head, raising your fist and shouting the lyrics to think about the song structures. The choruses are all extremely catchy and much in the same vein as Running Wild's.
    At times, this speed-offering demands some serious headbanging. Just listen to the opener Heroic Deathe. This thing starts fucking fast and remains for almost five minutes at that pace. Glorious speed metal! There's a long guitar duel right after the second chorus and at the end Kai Hansen jumps in doing some duet singing with Lars.
    The main difference to the band's debut album is that they have put some epic power metal moments in few songs in order to create atmosphere. The beginning of Thy Last Fyre would be a good example. Welcome Thy Rite starts in a similar epic fashion but turns into a speed metal anthem very soon. The final 8 min track Lindisfarne is reminiscent of an epic Grave Digger song: Soft acoustic intro, then some fast riffs and a grand chorus. Great stuff!
    Odinn's Warriors is probably the most catchy tune and while it's not that fucking fast, it will for sure become a fan favourite at live shows. Odinn's Waaarriooooors! In victory we return from the fightttt!!
    There's really no song on here that demands pressing the skip-button. No stupid ballads or unnecessary interludes.

    All the lyrics on Northern Rage deal with viking mythology. The booklet includes additional notes to every song, explaining mythological terms like the Sigrblót and the attack on Lindisfarne.

    What shines out the most on this album is the enthusiasm of every single member of this band. Stormwarrior really WANT to play this kind of music and that results in a very strong and energetic performance.

    Despite all the praising, the music on here doesn't match the previous release in sheer intensity and greatness.The long instrumental intro is nice but gets rather boring after two, three listenings.
    And finally, I think the band would have done better leaving out the spoken part in the middle of Lindisfarne and replacing it by another loooong guitar-solos-section.

    Nevertheless, Northern Rage is essential for everyone who enjoys Helloween's Walls Of Jericho, early Running Wild, the first three Blind Guardian albums or traditional heavy metal in general.