Released: 2015, Metal Nation Records
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
Northern Irish heavy metal legends Stormzone are back; this time they are armed, rather intriguingly, with a concept album – a first for the band.
Formed in 2004 by John 'Harv' Harbinson (Sweat, Sweet Savage) the band released their debut album 'Caught In the Act' in 2007. Harbinson was joined by bassist Graham McNulty and drummer Davy 'Basher' Bates (also of Sweet Savage) in 2008. 2010 saw 'Death Dealer' released, and a honing of the band's by now signature classic metal sound. Lead guitarist Steve Moore joined the ranks in 2011, a year which also saw the band support the likes of Tesla and Y&T, as well as release third album 'Zero To Rage', which was produced by Moore at his FireMachine Studios.
The band signed to Metal Nation Records in 2013, and released the epic 'Three Kings' later that year. Since then they've played with the likes of Saxon, as well as festivals such as Wacken, Sonisphere and Bloodstock. They've also recently signed to both The Distortion Production Management and Future PR.
And so to album number five, entitled Seven Sins. It is, as the title suggests, a concept album about the seven deadly sins, but in fact the story is more complex and layered than that simple premise. Set in the 18th century, vocalist Harbinson has created a storyline involving the enigmatic Dr Dealer (who has appeared in various guises on previous albums) and his beautiful but deadly assistant Bathsheba, a serial killer he rescued. They wander the land in his travelling emporium, seeking out sinners – specifically, parents who abuse their children. The suffering youngsters are set free, the parents face the wrath of Bathsheba, and the emporium moves on by the morning, leaving the town changed forever.
The scene is set from the opening Eastern-inspired notes of 'Bathsheba', which tells her story with genuinely interesting lyrics encased in a track pumped full of huge chugging riffs, powerful drumming and Harbinson's exceptional vocals. Right from the word go you can hear the excellent production values applied to the music; it sounds crystal clear, with no musician overpowering the others.
'Another Rainy Night' hits the ground running with a catchy and muscular riff, as well as some tense and atmospheric lyrics which follow directly on from the opening song. It has a pleasing ebb and flow and an insanely earworm-y chorus, not to mention a belter of a guitar solo – a feature throughout the entire album, in fact.
There are twelve tracks on Seven Sins and frankly, there's not a duff one amongst them. It genuinely is that rarest of creatures: an 'all killer, no filler' album. If you're after classic heavy metal, look no further than the tough, pounding 'Your Time Has Come' or the brisk, ballsy riff-fest that is 'Abandoned Souls'. If it's pumping hard rock that you seek, you'll find it in the simple yet effective gloom of 'Raise the Knife' and the richly textured 'Master of Sorrow'. There's strong overtones of power metal in the swirling and frantic riffs in 'You're Not the Same' and the catchy and appealing 'Special Brew', and even a kinda-sorta ballad in the shape of album closer 'Born of the Damned', which features a glorious twin guitar assault before it fades away, almost as a promise of what's to come...
In Seven Sins Stormzone have created a concept album bursting with class, maturity and a sense of adventure. Any classic metal fan will simply be unable to stop their head from banging and their face from breaking into a delighted beam upon listening to it. The lyrics are dark, interesting and clever without being show off-y, the bedrock of McNulty's bass and Bates' drumming is steadfast and exacting, Moore's guitar work (particularly his joyous solos) is exhilarating, and Harbinson's soaring vocal performance simply knocks it out of the park. Even the CD itself rocks: the cover arrtwork (designed by Harbinson) encapsulates the feel of the album and is also just, well, cool, whilst the booklet contains hidden clues that, if unlocked correctly lead to four extra songs that aren't on the album. Nice! The band have posted a youtube video a day which features Harbinson explaining in depth the story behind each song, which you can see on their website (see below).
Simply put, if you are a lover of classic heavy metal, BUY THIS ALBUM. You won't regret it.
Seven Sins is out of August 3rd via Metal Nations Records. The album launch will be held in Belfast's Limelight on September 5th.
For details on the album, the youtube song videos and everything else you wanted to know about the band, see http://www.stormzone.tv/
Review by Melanie Brehaut