Review by Greg Noble
Stormhammer “Seven Seals”
The premise of this album is an unopened vault in a temple in India and the moral dilemmas surrounding disturbing its contents.
What could go wrong?
Let’s crack this sucker open!
“Sleepwalker” wakes us from our slumber with an ominous rumbling. I buckled myself in, thinking that this was going to be fast. I wasn’t disappointed. The playing is indeed blistering, but the vocals are atypically unhurried. We are also introduced to the duality of the vocals – harmonic one moment and like Matthia Kupka had been gurgling razor blades the next. This makes for some intriguing interactions between them as different characters are portrayed. The track features an obligatory change of tempo, accompanied by reflective, clean vocals. True to type, one of the vocals is, “My dream is going down the road of doom.” Outstanding drumming is a feature of the track – I’m no drummer, but am tempted to call it double-kick – feel free to call me out on this if I am mistaken.
“Prevail” has a metal intro that marches the track forward. This sounds like it will be a great song to experience live, with lyrics along the lines of, “Hey! Hey! We must prevail!” The premise is a metal staple of the need to unite. The guitars vary from acoustic to a terrific duel to fade out the track.
“Under the Spell” is safe in style, telling a tale with musicality. There’s lots to like in the layers of this track, encouraging the listener that “we together ride”. It’s traditional power metal done well.
“Taken by the Devil” opens with acoustic and electric guitar and is slower and reflective in nature. It’s about trying to make the world better and reminded me of Bon Jovi. I initially wrote this track off as being too syrupy, but it’s clever rhythm makes it hum-worthy.
“Seven Seals” breaks open with wailing guitars and the arrangement then slows down and strips back. Through the track, it speeds and slows, adding a sense of theatre. But is always busy, with surprising complexity ever present in the background. Again, a power metal staple is used, this time being that “there is no escape from this place”.
“Your Nemesis” begins with voracious pace and gravelled vocals. This then retreats back to the power metal formula of the record so far. Staccato drumming features and the growling vocals are nothing short of impressive. These are enriched by wailing guitars to form a memorable segment of the album.
“Keep Me Safe” is a little lighter than the rest of the album and this serves as a counterpoint. Its different flavour enriches the recipe.
“One More Way” is anthemic in nature and opens with Indian inspired guitar notes, interwoven with metal chords. This had me nodding slowly. It is an inspired segue form the previous track, adding a sense of flow to the story, building a sense of purpose. The vocals are intense, with a second set of plaintive vocals in the background. This is very clever. A metal lyric staple of “we always believe in one more way” features.
“Downfall” opens with pinched guitar notes that continue through the track. Machine gun-like drumming adds a sense of purpose and the glottal vocals are again at the forefront. The cleaner set of vocals is also used and the dynamic duality of them is used to great effect – their oscillation back and forth builds confrontation. There is no doubting the passion in this track. Another metal staple rumbles forth, as we are asked, “Can you feel the thunder?” With the drumming used on this album? Always.
“Deal with the Dead” has pulsating percussion and the guitars sound slightly off in some way, suggesting that the dead are present. This is heightened by the vocals at the beginning, which sound disinterested and fatigued. This is expanded immediately, with the Kupka asserting that he is sick of a lot of things. It’s another slightly different sound, enhancing the variety of the album.
“Old Coals” is slower and anthemic, yet driving, using power metal and symphonic metal elements to great effect. The drumming again shines through. The track’s rawness is a great way to end the album.
Each track has a number of components – it’s not formulaic as they are used in a variety of ways – but it seems to be a style with which Stormhammer is comfortable and they use it well. The subject matter is rich in imagery, without being overdone.
The guitar solos aren’t epic in terms of length, but they are clean and skilful, being kept for the appropriate moment and duration in order to enrich the tale. Often, there is a duelling element to the solos and the riffs are smooth and robust.
The vocals are engaging and stay within Kupka’s range. The duality of them, from clear to ominous and them often confronting each other, results in a dynamic intensity that gives the album theatre.
Throughout the above I referred to the frequent use of metal elements and occasionally being safe. Whilst the album is not revolutionary or ground breaking, there’s a diversity of sound and intent that gives the album flow and purpose. It’s like a lot of melodic power metal – this either makes it instantly engaging, or forgettable.
It got my seal of approval.