Released: 2004, Scarlet Records
Reviewer: Night of the Realm
Three long years. That’s how long I have had to wait for a new Stormlord album to come to my waiting ears since Stormlord treated us in 2001 to the CURSE OF MEDUSA EP as well as a full-length, AT THE GATES OF UTOPIA. Finally, though, comes THE GORGON CULT, the third full-length album by Stormlord.
It should be no secret to anyone that Stormlord has long been a favorite band of mine, ever since the band’s debut album, THE SUPREME ART OF WAR, and that, along with Doomsword, represent the finest metal that Italy has to offer without touching the typical “Italian Power/Flower Metal” sound. When it comes to supreme epic metal, there are few bands anywhere that can match the power and force of Stormlord.
Since the beginning, Stormlord has been about progression in their sound. Starting out as a death metal band in their demo days, the band progressed to blackened epic metal on THE SUPREME ART OF WAR, then tempered the sound slightly for a faster, more aggressive and almost thrashy approach on AT THE GATES OF UTOPIA. With the new album, the band has taken the epic side of the music and built upon it a huge, melodic and symphonic layer.
Starting things off here is a quick intro, “The Torchbearer,” but unfortunately, like 95%+ of intros, this one is useless. I mean, with an opening track as incredible as “Dance of Hecate,” the songs should speak for themselves. David Folchitto’s signature drumming (one of the high points of Stormlord for me) begins to fire things up until the song drives full ahead, painting a massive soundscape of fierce double-kicks, sweeping keyboards, and a dual-guitar attack of power leads and thick riffs. Oh hell yes, this song rules! As always, Cristiano Borchi’s growling varies between the harsh rasp that he uses most often, as well as the hell-roaring deep growls. As on previous albums, the clean vocals are provided by Volgar (Deviatae Damiaen), and the clean epic war cry at 2:54 is just awesome. “Wurdulak” is a bit slower than I am used to from Stormlord, but still carries on strong until “Under the Boards” cranks in. This song is more like the older Stormlord sound off the first album: blast-beats, dominating keyboards, and a rawer guitar riff/tone than the rest of the songs on this release. The song continues to sweep through raging tides of blackened fury and slower, atmospheric epic moments throughout its entirety, just like the Stormlord I know and love. Up next is my favorite song on the album, “The Oath of the Legion,” which continues in much the same style as “Dance of Hecate” – a high-octane, kick you in the face number. Following the fast “The Oath of the Legion” is the album’s title track, a slower marching track with quite a powerful build-up. The track goes through a number of change-ups, even down to a gothic-doom crawl, but all the while staying interesting. At over 8 minutes in length, this is the longest track on the album, and another standout of mine. What album nowadays is complete without the obligatory instrumental? Well, “Memories of Lemuria” is here to fulfill that quota, although this highly atmospheric piece still remains moody and interesting enough. “Medusa’s Coil” wastes no time kicking off into a heavy, somewhat chugging, but clearly Stormlord riff backed up by some powerful bass work by Francesco Bucci. Like I said before, THE GORGON CULT is somewhat of a combination of the atmosphere of the first album with the heavy thrashiness of the second. While this song itself is far from thrash, the balance of synths (the keyboard performance in this song is among my favorite synth part of the album) with the upfront riffing is the real point here. This brings me to my only complaint about the album. While the production (handled again by master Italian producer Giuseppe Orlando) is absolutely flawless and refrains from being too polished and sterile, I wish that the guitar was pushed slightly more to the front. Mind you that this is not a flaw on the band or producer whatsoever, but as a personal preference, I’m a huge fan of production that manages to just barely hold each instrument together into a clean and coherent mix, yet leaves enough edge and rawness to keep each instrument distinct. Rounding out the album is quite an interesting interpretation of “Moonchild” which stays quite faithful to the Iron Maiden original while still adding the epic Stormlord signature twist to it. (Reviewer’s side note: As a huge Iron Maiden fan, I enjoy hearing Maiden covers with death vocals – check out the Latvian prog-death Neglected Fields “Only the Good Die Young” or Naglfar “The Evil that Men Do”) The album closes out on a high note with “Nightbreed,” traveling through several different style and time changes from sweeping and epic to crushing death to maniacal blast-beats in its six-minute span; overall, it is a very cool tune.
Well my friends, Stormlord have done it again and released another excellent album that ought to appeal to fans of epic, melodic, or extreme metal in general. The sound of Stormlord is unique in that it is does not fit any particular genre, but rather, combines influences of power, thrash, death, traditional, and even some gothic metal then adds on the epic and symphonic elements to form a style that defies classification. While I slightly prefer the first two albums over THE GORGON CULT, as a big Stormlord fan, I am very pleased with their latest effort that solidifies their reign at the top of the Italian metal scene.