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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.