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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.