Supreme Art of War
Released: 1999, Last Episode
Reviewer: Ice Maiden
In the interests of full disclosure, and to maintain my integrity as a journalist, I start by revealing that I am not a totally unbiased reviewer in this instance. I’m friends with the bassist, or shall I saw “Mighty Abyssal Bass Warrior” for Stormlord - Francesco Bucci. That said, before I first heard this album, I was already biased against it. I first met Francesco on a metal bulletin board, and was promptly convinced that he was a blow-hard, conceited, and MAY I JUST SAY SEXIST, stereotypical Italian guy (I later learned that he was being lost a little in translation). So when I learned he was in a band that had recently released its first full-length album, I eagerly asked a friend for a copy (I wasn’t going to indirectly give that “pig” any of my money!). I was sure it would completely suck and I could then mock Francesco.
Boy, was I surprised! From the sounds of rising winds in a storm at the beginning of “Where My Spirit Forever Shall Be” that turn into hard-driving guitars, until the last strained vocals on the scathing “Of Steel and Ancient Might,” I was riveted. Stormlord started as a death metal band in 1991, then morphed gradually through the entry and exodus of various band members into a more black metal stage and finally found its skin in its current line-up playing “Extreme Epic Metal.” The band’s image, message and sound is a potent mix of black metal and power metal (with moments of thrash guitar and lightening-fast-yet-tight drumming thrown in), but also incorporates soprano female and tenor male clear vocals (a.k.a. “enchanted female vocals” and “battle choirs”), and almost renaissance moments with the sounds of flutes, violins, trumpets, French horns and harp. The resulting innovative whole is uniquely different from its parts, and the Stormlord guys are quick to point out that they are NOT just black metal—which is why they recently decided to ditch their corpsepaint and look the world in the eye. The album reminds me vaguely of Children of Bodom, but with more black metal influences and with keyboards as a lead instrument. The production on the album is excellent, with all recording done at the Temple of Noise studios in Rome. “Supreme Art of War” was so incredible that I promptly swallowed my pride and ordered Stormlord’s entire catalogue directly from none-other than Francesco himself.
Lyrically, the album pays homage to Rome’s ancient glory and Roman mythology, with multiple invocations of “brothers,” “steel,” “might” and “pride,” and ending with biting commentary against, apparently, Catholicism (what do you expect from boys who literally live in the shadow of the Vatican???). Since I’ve now met these guys I can almost visualize them giving the Church with a capital “C” that classic Italian “sign of the cross” with the arms - the Roman “bird” if you will.
In the timeless words of my friend Francesco, “Buy the album or Die!” - especially if you are a fan of melodic black metal with strong power and thrash metal influences who likes to play things LOUD. This is honestly now one of my favorite metal albums.