Released: 2004, Nuclear Blast / Sound Pollution
Reviewer: Anders Sandvall
Stormwitch comes from Germany and is today one of the cult bands of heavy metal. They delivered a bunch of albums during the 1980’s like WALPURGIS NIGHT, TALES OF TERROR, STRONGER THEN HEAVEN, THE BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and EYE OF THE STORM. Their debut came out 1984 and the last album they released came in 1994 called SHOGUN. That was their last effort before they put the band on ice. Many bands have made covers of their songs like White Skull and the Swedish act HammerFall.
The original singer Andy Mück started to write songs with the guitarist/songwriter Martin Winkler (Nightwolf). They wrote the song “Dance With The Witches” which they dedicated to a very faithful fan of the band who was the spark that lit up the songwriting ambition for the guys. They wrote a bunch of songs all in the original Stormwitch spirit. Pretty soon a new Stormwitch was founded with a new line-up consisting of Marc Oppold (Tyrant) on drums and two former Tyrant musicians Alex Schmidt on keyboard and Fabian Schwarz on guitar plus Fabian’s brother Dominik on bass and of course Martin Winkler on guitar.
Stormwitch got themselves together and recorded the album DANCE WITH THE WITCHES in Martin’s studio. The final mix was done by Achim Köhler (Primal Fear, Brainstorm) and this was the first album by Stormwitch in 8 years. The album was released 2002 and after that they did some festival gigs at Summer Breeze and Wacken Open Air. They didn’t do so many shows in their own country but they were really huge in Eastern Europe, such as Hungary for example.
As I wrote earlier Martin produced the album in Project Studio Aalen in Germany and it was mixed and mastered by Stefan Hess at Tone Temple Studio, also in Germany. Martin has produced a soundscape that lasts almost the whole nine yards. Some of the songs sound really good but in certain songs Andy lies so high up in the mix and the music is so low that that they almost disappear. To be classified as heavy metal I think that the production needs more riffing guitars and a lot more attitude.
Stormwitch runs through 13 songs, but then I count in the bonus track that comes along with my promo copy called “Blood Lies In My Hand”. The info note says following about the album: “WITCHCRAFT has all typical Stormwitch trademarks again. A dark and romantic album with melodies only Stormwitch can write. Andy Mück is one of the few singers with personal touch. He always formed and dominated the sound of Stormwitch”.
This is my first experience with this legendary German heavy metal band. The music is listed as heavy metal in the bio and I agree, with one exception. Stormwitch sounds a lot like classical heavy metal from the 1980’s. Even the soundscape has an 80’s vibe and they haven’t done anything to update it to the 21st century.
“The Sinister Child”, “At The Break Of This Day”, “Witchcraft” and “Moonfleet” are typical 80’s sounding heavy metal tracks. The songs goes not so fast and they have a more heavier and grinding feeling. Andy is too high up in the mix with his lead vocals and Martin and Fabian do a lame guitar effort. Track number three gives both guitarists a chance to really show off their guitar play. In this track the band have also used a lot more keyboards. The forth track is a slow 80’s heavy metal track with a lot of repeating of the chorus where Andy also gets help by a female on vocals. “Fallen From God” is a mid-tempo tune that lack every feeling of any heavy metal at all. The song sound like a Christmas carol with constantly chiming bells. In the middle comes a boring guitar solo and at the end they have included a terrible children’s choir that at the ends totally takes over the chorus.
Other songs unclude “Frankenstein’s Brother”, “Until The War Will End”, “The Kiss Of Death”, “Salome” and “The Drinking Song” where the first one is a pure 80’s heavy metal track. In the second song they have used a lot of double bass pedal drumming and also there are a lot of guitar riffing. Andy sings in his higher register and that’s really something he shouldn’t do, his voice capacity can’t handle that. The third song is also a heavy 80’s metal track with a lot of tempo changes and it also have a very sing a long friendly chorus. The last track is a bit inspired of folk music especially in the chorus and just like “Fallen From God” this song falls a bit out of the frame of what a heavy metal track should sound like.
“Sleeping Beauty” is a ballad where nothing much happens at all, it could be taken for a child song. “Puppet In A Play” is also a ballad into the middle of the song and after that the tempo rises and it closes off as a heavy metal track.
The last track out is the bonus track “Blood Lies In My Hand” where the guitar player Martin takes care of the lead vocals. It’s a pure power metal ballad that’s includes everything from piano to vocal harmonies to beautiful guitar play. Martin sounds a lot better than Andy on vocals.
On the negative side we have the material, the songs feel unfinished and not strong at all. Instead of 13 songs they should maybe have put 10 on the album instead. The production feels quite weak and Andy’s voice has not the capacity as the info note says he has. He manages to take everything within his vocal range but when he pitches the high notes it sounds really awful.
On the positive side can I mention the fact the band’s faithful fans who have waited for an album a really long time now. The musicians are pretty skilled and partly through the album Stormwitch plays genuine honest British 80’s heavy metal. Martin impresses on vocals on the bonus track and maybe they should stick to him as a lead vocalist.
I can recommend this to fans of old 80’s heavy metal but I really hope that the guys can do a lot better work on the next album.
Some of the better song on this ordinary album are “Frankenstein’s Brothers”, “At The Break Of This Day”, “Witchcraft” and “Moonfleet”.