Review – Stormburner – “Shadow Rising” from Metal Chaos Magazine

You can discern a great deal about a band by how they describe themselves. On their Facebook page, Stormburner classify their music, quite simply, as “Heavy Metal from the North.” In this case, it´s a most apt characterization. The “North” part makes perfect sense because Stormburner hail from Stockholm, Sweden. As for the “Heavy Metal” part, well, the band specializes in pure, true, traditional, fist-raising metal to the bone, so they´ve nailed it, really. This is heavy metal with a capital “H” and a capital “M”. But let’s back up for just a moment: In 2016, vocalist Mike Stark parted ways with the excellent Starblind, with which he had released a pair of fine Maiden-influenced albums via Stormspell Records. Eager to embark on a new musical adventure, Stark placed an advertisement in a local musicians´ group , to which rhytm guitarist Tommi Korkeamaki responded. It was a fortuitous meeting, which culminated in a pair forging detailed strategic plans for what was to become Stormburner.

Unfortunately, life and circumstances interfered, as they are wont to do. A planned December 2018 release date for the debut album slipped a full year to December 2019; however, now the arrival of Shadow Rising is imminent via stouthearted German imprint Pure Steel Records.

Upon listening to Shadow Rising, the influence of vintage Manowar (specifically, those first six magic circles made by the blood of the kings) shines through loud and clear, in everything from the anthemic, hymnal song structures towering guitar riffs, and arrangements to the lyrical to the lyrical themes (war and metal and Valkyries and Odin and fire and so forth) to the over-the-top vocal performance of Mike Stark. The band does not shrink from the comparison to Joey DeMaio and his Kings o´ Metal, nor could they credibly do so. But this is a good thing. Classic Manowar is responsible for some of the greatest music ever recorded, and not many newer bands today are able to capture the raw power, unchained might, pure metal feeling, and unbridled joy instilled by that legendary act. Stormburner do it well. Very well. Besides, Stormburner possessed ample distinctive features to avoid being tagged as a clone or copy.

There´s definitely a bit of a power metal edge to Shadow Rising at times, calling to mind the likes of early Dream Evil, Mystic Prophecy, or even Hammerfall at their heaviest and most pounding. These songs are powerful and pure anthems forged in the spirit of olden times, when gloves of metal ruled the night, but they are seasoned with enough other influences that only occasionally (“Ragnarok,” for example) do they stray too close into Manowar territory, Then there´s Stark, whose voice shifts between a heaven-piecing scream and gritter mid-range that, while quite effective in its own right, could not really be likened to Eric Adams at all.

Where Stormburner really differentiate themselves from the pack is the quality of the songwriting. The band expertly change speeds from burners like “We Burn” or “Eye of the Storm,” to midtempo thumpers like “Demon Fire” or “Into the Storm,” to the almost dirge-like closer “Ode to War.” Regardless of tempo, the catchiness and memorability levels are quite high for nearly all of the songs, especially the infectous choruses. I dare you to listen to “Men at Arms” (a preview track first unveiled last year) and not find yourself walking around the house – even days later – singing to yourself, “We are brothers fighting forever (Fight!) / Side by side we are men at arms,” Or in “Ode to War,” the same is true with “Ride to Asgard / Let the Valkyries carry us home / with our brothers, we make the final stand.” You can´t stop yourself. It´s impossible. Almost every track has a massive sing-a-long part, tailor-made for hoisting your beer, locking arms with your mates in the pub, and belting out the words at the top of your lungs. This is the kind of metal that makes me feel good. It´s the kind of metal that makes me feel alive. Sure, if it´s not in your blood, you will never understand. But if it is – and I suspect it is for you, just as it is for me, otherwise you wouldn´t have read this far – then you owe it to yourself to check out Shadow Rising, which exemplifies this style done right I 2019. Add in positively crushing, thoroughly modern Ronny Hemlin (Steel Attack), etc.) production job, and a magnificent Ken Kelly (Manowar etc.) cover painting, and Stormburner have delivered class with the entire package. Devotees of well-executed true heavy metal with wailing vocals and fantastic anthemic songs will find much to their liking on Shadow Rising.

Kit Ekman – Metal Chaos Magazine

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