Released: 1999, Invasion Records
Reviewer: Night of the Realm
Skymning’s STORMCHOIRS has been kicking around on my hard drive in MP3 form for a couple years now, but it wasn’t until the reissue by Blackened Records last year that I had the pleasure of actually owning a copy of the debut from these Swedish melodic death-power metallers.
Formed in 1996, Skyming’s debut, STORMCHOIRS was released on the now defunct Invasion Records, but never received much attention, with poor distribution and subsequent folding of the label accounting for much of their obscurity.
Skymning’s sound is firmly rooted in the Gothenburg tradition, drawing influence mainly from a middle-period, pre-PROJECTOR Dark Tranquility sound, kicking up the Iron Maiden influences a couple notches further (Listen to the harmonies and gallop on “The Question”), and incorporating a stronger thrash element. The end result is much akin to fellow Swedes Dispatched, on their MOTHERWAR album: a nice blend of heaviness and aggression with the speed and kickass melodic guitar work of speed-power metal. In some places, I am also reminded of Brimstone’s CARVING A CRIMSON CAREER, not only in the riff and gallop, but also the tone and style of the growled vocal delivery.
STORMCHOIRS is 10 tracks of Swedish power metal that is sure to please fans of this style, and the aforementioned bands. There really are no bad tracks at all on this album, and I find it hard to choose a favourite from among them. From the intense double-bass kick intro of the opening track “Sweeping the World,” leading into a track that maintains a good balance of time changes from speedy to mid-tempo with well over a minute of solo trading (some nice shred soloing, too).
The opening track gives the listener a very good idea of what is in store for the remaining 50 minutes of album. While Skymning manage to craft each song as skillfully as above, stuffing many solos, time changes, and extended instrumental passages into each track, unfortunately, the songs become cookie-cutter in structure. This isn’t a bad thing necessarily, as there is some damn fine power metal being played here, some variety in structure, or at least variation in the length of each track (they almost all clock in somewhere around 5 minutes long) would have been welcome.
Some of my favourite moments from STORMCHOIRS:
“Memories” - I really like the tuning and distortion used on the guitar in the main harmonies; just the right amount of fuzz to it. The insane hyperspeed-riffs and blastbeats that kick in around 2:35 still manage to maintain a strong melody. Holy shit is that cool! I think the alternating use of speedy and slower, choppy-riff passages break the momentum of this track.
“The Question” – This one is a slower tune, dropping to a comfortable mid-pace with some clearly Iron Maiden-inspired harmonies. This one has a catchy groove-gallop to it.
“The Final Battle” is just that, one of my favourite songs on the album. Nothing special going on here, just an overall good tune.
“A World in Flames” hits hard right out of the gates with a shred-harmony intro. The main melody here reminds me in some odd fashion of the clean middle passage of Midvinter’s “Moonbound,” with a few variations. Even stranger is that Andy LaRocque happened to produce STORMCHOIRS and Midvinter’s AT THE SIGHT OF THE APOCALYPSE DRAGON. In any case, this is my favourite song on the album.
One complaint I have about the album is the relative shittiness of the booklet layout. I don’t know if Blackened Records is responsible for it, or if it has something to do with Invasion’s original release of the album, but the booklet is just plain boring. We do have all of the lyrics, but I would have liked to see band photos, or even a band lineup, not to mention the original production/recording credits. It doesn’t help any that Skymning’s website is under construction, making information all that much harder to obtain.
Overall, STORMCHOIRS presents us with just under 55 minutes of Gothenburg-inspired power metal. Though each song follows a strong formula, Skymning lose points for a lack of variety among the song structures, resulting in the tracks sounding like they could run together in several places. I strongly recommend this band to fans of the Gothenburg power metal sound, especially if you dug albums like Dark Tranquility’s THE MIND’S I, or Dispatched’s MOTHERWAR.