Release DetailsLABEL Innervenus Records
RELEASED ON 7/31/2009
Angels Of Enmity
posted on 12/2009 By:
Being so bold as to speak for some of our staff and forum regulars, there’s a chance you’re already off on the right foot when you name your band after a delicious $13 six-pack of East Coast stout. So I kept a wide-open mind that Pittsburgh’s Storm King would be just as powerful and layered as the brew they were inspired by, and they are, sort of. Their range of influences and odd transitions don’t exactly go down smooth as silk, but it’s clear you can tell what they were trying to accomplish with this hopped up blend of chunky middle tier SF-influenced thrash, some progressive death metal, and a little stoner savvy. Sounds like an interesting party? You might want to take a closer look, and mingle a bit before deciding to hang up your coat and stay a while, just in case.
For the vast percentage of the time, I personally got a kick out of the way these guys manage to take the technical wizardry of a band like Death, or Cynic, and mash it up with a strong MachineHead vibe, and it really doesn’t sound like it was easy for them. There are some bands whose performances seem so effortless and second nature, you can imagine them waking up out of a dead sleep and sweep picking flawlessly before they even bothered to pick the crusties out of their eyes. But you can also tell when a band has had to work very hard at perfecting their craft and getting their chops up, mainly due to the fact that at no point does Storm King venture into showoff territory. It’s like the difference between getting strong from hard work, as opposed to being a gym rat. Their dirt-under-the-nails mix of blue collar thrash and death metal is well-focused on solid songwriting, and they do their best to ensure their lines of continuity don’t falter when they decide to switch to less outwardly aggressive moments.
But “solid” is about as far as it gets, and luckily none of it sucks, per se. Vocalist Scott Massie has a raspy midranged voice that reminds me a little of Sacred Reich’s Phil Rind mixed with Rob Flynn, and he injects a really gritty sort of melody on tunes like the harmlessly catchy and enjoyable “The Death Equation” that cements their down to earth vibe thoroughly. In another way, they remind me a lot of what Biomechanical might produce if they significantly toned down their completely blown-out sonic overkill. They've supplied tons of tense, quickly picked riffs, a fair amount of attention directed at the bass, melody that refrains from cheese and wispy atmospherics, dual harmonies that are more Testament than The Haunted, and drumming that impresses not just with technical expertise, but with great groove, and quite a few busily arranged ear-catching fills that enhance the tunes without hogging the spotlight.
Honestly, I wish Skinlab had released an album on par with Storm King this year, because Angels Of Enmity is a good example of how to infuse the grit of the 80’s thrash scene with a more updated style of aggressive songwriting, but that hardly means anything here will knock your dick into the dirt either. There are times when Massie is a little hard to listen to, usually when he’s trying to extend the reach of his vocal capabilities into more voluminous, melodic heights. The closing title track is also the only odd fit in the bunch, and at over 16 minutes in length, it’s a bit of a doozy. It sounds like they took three completely different songs, one a dominantly slow Down/Minsk tribal dealie, a progressive hardcore number, and then a speedy, cleaner grind track, and just mixed them all together in strangely uniform formation. Tunes that last over a quarter of an hour are okay when they go somewhere, but this song sort of drags after the mash-up of styles peters out, and all that’s left is an uneventful percussive conclusion that lasts about 4 minutes too long, although having bagpipes as the payoff for sitting through until the end was kind of cool. How can anyone get mad at bagpipes?
I’ll take a bottle, but not a keg. Some of this is smooth, it might get your heart pumpin’ and your blood warmed up, there’s a richness and simplicity that go hand in hand, while bitterness stays around just long enough to let you know it’s there. For some reason it feels like Storm King are metal fans first, and musicians second, because I get the strong feeling that they wrote the bulk of this album with successful live translation in mind. It’s metal designed to get people on their feet, bobbing their heads, and humming along to the choruses, instead of standing stoically with their arms crossed, and I can’t help but love that. They’re not technically astonishing, or remotely original, but I’ll take dependability and heart over unsubstantial flash any day of the week. Cheers.
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