I recently read an article stating cheese is good for you. Immediately I called up our promo list for March and scoured the piles of black metal releases for some suitable power metal. With Cellador spoken for (and spoken of), I grabbed what I hoped would be the next best thing: Dead of Night, the third album (but first in ten years, thus their anonymity) from Germanic power metallers Stormage. Which I pronounce the same way I say fromage, which of course is French for cheese. They’ve got the made-of-stone logo font and the vaguely Celtic album cover, which both scream power metal, so I’m pretty much willing this album to be cheesy, powerfully powerful fun.
Sounds from a war room permeate the speakers as “Instinct to Defend” kicks the album off — a silly, cheesy effect that leads into a fast and squealy mash of aggression. More on that “mash” later. For now let’s focus on the songwriting and performances, both of which are acceptable, for lack of a better term, on this opening cut. It’s a generic metal tune with hints of Teutonic power, and a decent example of things to come. “Anguish of Mind” continues with the galloping beat and squealy-laced guitar lines, but a laughable vocal line loaded with “woah-ohhh, woah-ohhhhhh!” verses. Singer/guitarist Heiko Heseler faintly channels his inner constipated Udo throughout Dead of Night, but for the most part, when he’s not buried in the mix his singing is technically competent yet uninspiring.
Elsewhere on the album, Stormage bring us morsels of milbenkase but no full servings: “Heretic Enemy” has an unintelligible crooned intro, “Prime of Life” outros with a horribly off-key children’s choir, “In the Line of Fire” brings back the war room buzz from “Instinct to Defend,” and “Drag You to Hell” employs crows, church bells, and monks before Heseler growls the title, making for the funniest moment on record. “Borne the Agony” opens with some sort of whispered prelude over a stormy piano, and the dreaded piano ballad raises its fearsome face in the form of “Victim’s Eyes,” a song that attempts to sound epic and grandiose, and possibly could if produced and mixed better. The best song out of all ten Stormage have given us here (although it also has the most boring video in history) is “The Deadly Blow,” which is pretty much straight-ahead metal – aside from the heartbeats and synth patches that lead into the track.
That’s a big part of the problem with Dead of Night. If you’ve already cheated by scrolling down to see what the album rating comes in at, you’ve probably also noticed the cringeworthy DR 4 score. And yes, as mentioned above the songs are mashed into a pasty cheese plate. The sounds are generic at best here. Guitars are loud rather than crunchy, the bass is audible, with a bit of a growly bounce to it. There’s more snap in the snare drum than we would expect from a DR 4 mastering, which is a positive, but the rest of the drum kit has that generic Rubbermaid sound going for it. Where the mix suffers the most is with the wall of sound created with two guitars, cymbals, and lead/backing vocals all fighting for dominance. They all lose, and thus we get our unintelligible mass of mush.
Look, we all make fun of power metal: the genre is an easy target. But deep down, we’re all hoping to hear that one album that makes it cool again. An album that relishes and struts the stereotypical qualities of power metal, but at the same time pushes some boundaries and cranks out some memorable anthems. Stormage is not that band, and Dead of Night is not that album. It won’t offend too many ears, and doesn’t elicit guffaws of laughter at its cheesy camp: rather, occasional snorts of humor as we run through it prior to setting it aside and hoping for something better to come along.