Stormrider- First Battle Won
Band Homeland: Sweden
Band Homepage: http://www.stormrider.se/
Label Homepage: http://www.karmageddonmedia.com/
Recorded in Studio Abyss (produced by Tommy Tägtgren / Stormrider) and released in 2003 by Karmageddon Media, “First Battle Won” is the first full-length offering from this Swedish quintet (four demos preceded this release). After giving the album an initial full listen, I can assure you that “First Battle Won” will not ever be filed under “Trendy Progressive Death Metal”. Stormrider is the epitomized antithesis of “feel good” Death Metal. There’s nothing pretty or apologetic about their purpose or their music, and “First Battle Won” is a true declaration of war.
The cover artwork (credited to Narasha Dark Dellamorte) is a dark fantasy scene depicting a thickly muscled warrior with a huge axe standing on a parapet and surveying the battle below. It sets the tone as I open my new CD to check out the booklet. It’s easy to read (meaning it’s not done 12-point archaic gothic font, and is light lettering on a dark background). Each page is dedicated to lyrics of an individual song with and underlay of an enlarged portion of the front cover, except for the center spread, which is a background of the bands tribal logo.
Consisting of 12 songs with a total playing time of 45:58 (plus bonus video for the song “Completely Dead”) “First Battle Won” is an aural assault of the senses from the very first note. My strongest impression is that this is an album borne of nothing less than pure love for the craft of making intense and aggressive music. With roots obviously firmly planted in traditional Death Metal, the influence of Black Metal is undeniable and this album would easily bridge into either camp and find a welcomed home.
The guitar work (Mikael "Strampan" Strandberg and Henrik Larsén) is hard driving with a solid emphasis on heavy cord progression and crisp single-string runs (with minimal solo leads) that create an undeniable crushing grind. The drumming (Kristoffer Ahlberg) is a relentless hammering attack, and when the doublekick lights up, my speakers shake. Doublekick alone does not make for good drumming, and that fact was not lost on Ahlberg. The fills and runs on this album are well timed, interesting and perfectly executed. The bass (Morgan Ramstedt) is lower in the mix as an individual instrument, but does come out strong in a few songs (such as “The Beast”) and it lays a solid foundation that rumbles with power. The vocals (YX) are a darkly enigmatic blend of roaring Death and shrill Black styling with incredible sustains on the roars and screams. They provide the perfect fronting for the aggressive heaviness the band as a whole creates.
The thing that impressed me the most on this album, beyond any other aspect, was the sum of the whole. Any part of this album could be listened to and considered and excellent offering, but the bands ability to blend styles and make it work seamlessly is excellent. The music varies from punishing Death Metal grinds to sinister Black Metal melody to Viking Metal harmony… and it all works. When considered in its entirety, it stands as an impressive first release (or rather, an impressive release- period).
As I write this review, Stormrider is scheduling final production for their new album. I won’t be waiting a year to get my hands on that one when it comes out.
I’m finishing up my review, and I’ve given the album 3 straight plays. I will say without hesitation that Stormrider has earned a place in my permanent CD rotation. I can also safely say that with regards to their declaration of war against the current trends of Screamo-core and Death Metal Lite, Stormrider has entered the fields of war and the verdict is “First Battle Won”, indeed.
Three Fave Picks: Completely Dead [F.T.W.], Killer, Odin’s Ride