posted on 10/2011 By:
Stormwarrior is not out to tread new ground. At all. This must be the agreed-upon conceit before any real dissection is possible. In the entire 48:30 playing time of Heathen Warrior, there is not one truly original take on any of power metal's well-worn tropes. Songs begin upon or enter overt melodic sections with an inexplicable “All right!” Bass drums pound, locked so tight with the riff that there is almost no distinguishing the two. The lyrics are awful, though they have the odd addition of an “e” at the end at every noun. There is not even an attempt at working outside the strict song structures that Helloween crafted and Gamma Ray honed. There are moments even, particularly when singere / guitariste Lars Ramcke belts out a whole-hearted, half-hit high note just before a solo, where Stormwarrior would appear to be outright Kai Hansen plagiarists.
This would usually be the point where a review would shift and say something along the lines of “But!” or “However.” This is not one of those times. Heathen Warrior is almost plagarism.
After opening with an oddly stunted instrumental intro track, the album explodes into the title track, almost mirroring the exact progression of Gamma Ray's “Rebellion in Dreamland” (and Helstar's "Winds of War," but I digress). From there, listeners are treated to what Peter Travers would call a “Tour De Force” of German power metal dynamics. Want blazing fast? See “Heirs to the Fighte.” Want slightly less fast? You've got “Bloode to Bloode.” How about that thing where there's a big melody and then just the bass with vocals and then Kai Hansen's like “Yyyyeeeeaaahhhh!”? Oh my, well give “The Returne” a listen.
The only non-formulaic bit -- at least as far as the “old school” sound is concerned -- is the use of bass drums. Because most of the players in the early 80's were figuring out how to play, let alone how to fit to a sound, the bass drum only locked in exactly with the riff sometimes. In modern power metal, as displayed on this long player among a legion of others, the tendency is to lock in every time, all the time, and speed until the deed is done. This comes into direct conflict with the riffing style, oftentimes leaving Heathen Warrior lopsided and awkward, an unfortunate reminder of why power metal needs an especially creative mind behind it to function in the modern metal world.
But the mere fact that bass drum patterning is the chief poor performance on the album is indicative of the whole problem. Heathen Warrior becomes almost hard to critique, as it exists as all but a non-entity. To critique the band is almost to critique the genre, as Stormwarrior is nothing except a genre's cliches amped, mic-ed and put to tape. So if you like power metal the same way that 16-year-olds like beer, then this will do the job. But likewise, you'll regret your decision when you come to afterwards, brain cells lost and a bitter taste in your mouth.
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