Stormwarrior - Norsemen
Massacre Records
German Speed Metal
9 songs (50:16)
Release year: 2019
Stormwarrior, Massacre Records
Reviewed by Ben

Stormwarrior are looked at as a fairly typical speed metal band from Germania, and that they are. However, they have had quite a few "eras" for a band that plays a seemingly rigid style of metal. Their debut self titled album was such Walls Of Jericho worship that they even got Kai Hansen to do guest vocals on one of their originals, the nine minute Chains Of Slavery. Mr. Hansen also performed with the band on a cover of Helloween's Heavy Metal Is The Law. Not only that, but they did tons of festival shows where Kai would come out and play a mini setlist of old Helloween songs with the band. Sophomore release Northern Rage still had input from Kai but his influence was reduced greatly. The band seemed to find their stride in the third release Heading Northe and had revamped their sound to include more Running Wild type guitars. Then they shit out a clunker in Heathen Warrior. Vocalist, guitarist, and sole remaining original member, Lars Ramcke, began utilizing a very awkward style of clean vocals that in many parts sounded tepid and boring. A couple albums later and here we are, the band is back on the map from having returned to form.

First things first, the cover art is kind of awful. The Mufasa cloud of Odin looks too much like Anthony Hopkins from the Marvel movies. Also, the prominently placed viking ship on the front makes this cover look too similar to the front of Heading Northe. In fact, the sails are the same patterns. What, is this supposed to be the same ship? Is a fucking Viking ship the band's mascot? Their Eddie? Say it ain't so Joe, I mean Lars! Well, thankfully we live in 2020 so who cares about album art these days anyway, right? After an unnecessary intro track comes the first real tune, Norsemen (We Are). The pleasing sounds of pummeling double bass, rapid tremolo picked guitar melodies, and faster than fast rhythm guitar have me feeling comforted. Lars' singing is back in the game. Granted, he doesn't have that same youthful attack in his voice like he did on the debut, but he isn't a tired old man just going through the motions like he sounded on Heathen Warrior. But then we get to the chorus. I'm not a huge audiophile, but the chorus bugs me in a technical way. Lars decides to go all Blind Guardian on us and he employs multi tracked vocal washes. He'll sing a line, then the second voice comes in and both voices sync up at the end of the melody. However, the only singing voice is Lars himself, and each vocal track sounds similar to the other because they share the same timbre, the same audio space. Instead of doing different voice harmonies to differentiate the vocal tracks, it's the equivalent of using delay on an electric guitar. This causes the vocals to sound muddied and blur together unless it's played loud like it should be. Not only that, but did someone forget to put a spit guard in front of the microphone? Every single "s" that is sung is sharp and biting and makes my eardrums tingle with sadness. Someone fell asleep at their desk during production lessons on plosives. Thankfully, this is the only time the production (done by Lars) is this distracting.

Back to the music! Storm Of The North should be noted for its exceptional rhythm guitars. All out speed and aggression that gets the blood pumping. Much like their kinsmen Running Wild, there are no ballads on this album. Maybe it's because I'm such a fanboy of speed metal, but this album doesn't blend into a smorgasbord of sameness like many other speed metal outings. The way Stormwarrior manage this is by making sure each song has at least a very identifiable beginning to grab the listener. Sword Dane (yes that's the song, not "Sword Dance") begins with swooshing sword sound effects and a lead guitar line, Freeborn blasts off with a rollicking gallop, Odin's Fire starts with power chords before assaulting us, and Shield Wall has a slow burn build up. Of course there's the finale, Sword Of Valhalla, but at eleven minutes in length you shouldn't be confusing this with anything else on the album. Lyrically, this is all about Vikings and raids, and worshiping Odin, and lots of fighting. Not as many straight up anti Christian songs like before, but more just straight up espousing Pagan virtues. A lazy comparison would be to say it's like Amon Amarth but not growly. When it comes to the guitars, I mentioned Stormwarrior has gravitated towards the Running Wild school of playing. While this means tons and tons of melodic licks and great uplifting leads, there has been a noticeable drop in dual harmony solos like they had during their Helloween loving infancy. That's not to say they don't exist but there's nothing like the non stop dual guitar harmony solo madness of Deathe By The Blade from the self titled album. Still, the band plays with enough exuberance that it's easy to forget that Lars has kept this thing going for over twenty years now and at least he still likes to play fast.

After dropping the ball in a big way with the boring musical affair that was Heathen Warrior, a return to form by Stormwarrior with Norsemen is what we needed. At this point in the group's history, they are essentially a veteran band who've been around the block a few times AND they did it with Kai Hansen's guidance. When it comes to influences you can't get any better than that. So, I'm glad to see Stormwarrior back in action, and if this album had come out say ten years ago it would probably rate a little bit higher.

Killing Songs :
Storm Of The North, Sword Dane, Freeborn, Shield Wall
Ben quoted 71 / 100
Other albums by Stormwarrior that we have reviewed:
Stormwarrior - Heathen Warrior reviewed by Thomas and quoted 68 / 100
Stormwarrior - Heading Northe reviewed by Chris and quoted 94 / 100
Stormwarrior - Northern Rage reviewed by Ben and quoted 86 / 100
Stormwarrior - Heavy Metal Fire EP reviewed by Ben and quoted no quote
Stormwarrior - Stormwarrior reviewed by Marty and quoted 88 / 100
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