Stälker – Black Majik Terror Review

New Zealand’s devastating speed metal trio Stälker have deemed it appropriate to drop a new album on our laps this week. After an EP (reviewed here), an album (reviewed here), and a 7”,1 Black Majik Terror is the band’s second full-length, and it’s safe to say I’m a fan of the band. That doesn’t always work in the band’s favor, though; I hold bands I am fond of to a higher standard than I sometimes should, perhaps in an attempt to not gush over poor releases. Anyhow, I approach this blast of 80’s speed metal with a mixture of trepidation and excitement. I hope for the best but prepare myself for disappointment, I suppose like everything in life, really.

The band come out of the gates on fire, with “Of Steel and Fire,” with a scream not heard since “Ram It Down.” The song is a breakneck blast through the world of speed metal, and all is well in the land of Stälker. But then the title track opens with eerie organs. What the hell is going on now? Stälker aren’t going goth on us are they? Thankfully no; it takes only a minute before another sizzling riff tears through the speakers, and we’re off to the races, the music flying along as Daif King cycles randomly through shouts and ear-piercing wails the likes of which would make King Diamond proud. It’s an acquired taste, but so much fun once you buy into it.

The band grooves at times, such as the eerie intro to “The Cross” and the slinky “Holocene’s End.” They may not be quite as effective on the latter, mostly because Daif’s vocal dramatics are more effective at warp speed than slow-mo. It’s an interesting changeup, to be sure, but much too long and not as fun as when the band treats our ears like speed bags. The penultimate song is something Steel Druhm always talks about: “Iron Genocide.” I don’t really know what that means, but I’m glad I’m not iron. This song and album high point “Intruder” wrap up Black Majik Terror in blisteringly rewarding fashion. “Intruder’s” deceptively simple riffs (and some tasty bass lines at the end) make the song amazingly easy to get whiplash to, and the relatively subdued vocal performance allows us to focus on what is a killer track.

One doesn’t look for pristine production from retro speed metal, nor would we find that when forced to listen to streaming promo, but Black Majik Terror is actually really well put together. Daif’s vocals don’t overpower the mix, which is important when the man shows all the restraint of a Trump debate. And with some concentration one can actually even make out his bass, which is at times thick, other times bouncy, and sometimes nicely overdriven. Nick Oakes’ drumming continues to propel the songs forward, but the star of the show once again is axeman Chris Calavrias, who has more licks than an itchy cat. Whether it’s his lightning-fast riffs or his searing lead breaks, Chris imbues each song with equal portions of skill and enthusiasm.

Often when I listen to throwback music like this, it makes me want to toss on my old LPs and melt into the sounds of yesteryear. But when I listen to Stälker, it makes me want to listen to more Stälker. I can’t think of a better compliment. The band has accomplished what they set out to do here: the songwriting continues to hone in on their strengths, they’ve doubled down on the aspects of their style that make them stand out, and have delivered an album that, as a fan of the band, I’m more than happy to endorse and play repeatedly when the need for speed arises.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: argh, stream | Format Reviewed: stream, dammit
Label: Napalm Records
Websites: |
Release Worldwide: October 30th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. Described by the band as “evil power sealed forever in hot wax, comes with a fuck you patch.” Beautiful.
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