Stormbound – December Review

A crazy thing happened in 2020—Holdeneye was right about Scardust.1 So, when I was perusing the promo pudding for a sonic snack that swooned my spoon, I popped the foil on a new Israeli symphonic power metal group, Stormbound, hoping that they might be part of a growing movement from the small but mighty country. Freshly minted in 2018, Stormbound has spent the better part of the past few years condensing their ideas from dreams to digitals, looking to strike lightning twice in a genre that often causes little more than a drizzle. With a thunderous Gogo Melone cover art, and hearts ablaze with passion, Stormbound aims to strain the land of milk and honey into a silky, startling cheese.

At so many points, I was tempted to fall in love with December, but as they say, it’s about the mouthfeel not the mouthful. To my battle-refined organ,2 this debut work holds a few too many flavors that disrupt smooth consumption, much like your buddy’s Stone clone that smells suspiciously like a Miller High Life. When they’re serving us best, Stormbound plays a bouncy, vibrant style of cinematically inclined power metal with pepperings of harsh vocals, somewhere right in the middle on the Amaranthe to Seven Spires spectrum. These theatrically-minded Israelis have tunes that are folky and danceable (“Flying High”), borderline melodeath (“Sacred Lies”)—even a suite (“December”)—all in one extended-length package that’s as disarming as it is disengaging.

Throughout the one hour of inspired anthems, ballads, and bangers, fledgling producer Alex Zvulun struggles to find the right way to let the strongest that Stormbound has to offer break through the clouds. As is typical for the style, powerful and bombastic performances build the bulk of the runtime on December. Unfortunately, many competing sounds crowd the center stage—Yael Horwitz’s piercing wail, Yuval Partush’s explosive snare, Rotem Sadia’s dancing keys, every guitar line—and as a result, each washes away in a sea of loudness (“Desert’s Roar,” “Sacred Lies,” “Flying High”). During quieter moments, like the restrained requiem of “Shadows” or the closing movement of “December,” Stormbound finds a natural elegance by virtue of having fewer elements to crank. More often, though, we’re stuck trying to pick out a truly sababa riff hiding inside an overstuffed pita (“Desert’s Roar,” “Altar of Innocence”).

Additionally, both the female lead, Yael Horwitz, and the male lead, Ofer Friedman, push their vocal ranges beyond comfort, resulting in some missteps that push certain passages a few steps back. Despite continuing to struggle with the production, the opening trio, musically promises a lot—between Petrucci-esque grooves and the Adagio-reminiscent drama. All of what Stormbound has built between the first two numbers comes to a screechy halt during “Sacred Lies” when Horwitz, possibly at the direction of the band or of her own desire to play into the word “loud,” applies a nasty (and not death metal nasty) level of distortion to her huge nasal snarl. Later, after the most delicious solo during “Fragments” she pulls the same trick, wiping clean the efforts of one of the Friedman axe duo3. Unsurprisingly, Horwitz, maintains a gentle lilt against the romantic intro to “Away from Here,” where it’s Friedman who pops in with a Rami Kleinstein impersonation that just isn’t quite fully formed. He does recover as the track goes on, but the song may have felt effortlessly cohesive leaving the delicate piano piece sans any serenading.

I didn’t want things to end this way—good cheese is a treasure. Stormbound, thankfully, has only just begun their adventure, and the members have plenty of talent and energy in their ranks. I understand that it’s tough as an independent artist in a developing scene to find the resources to realize the sounds on record as the sounds you hear in your head. Yet, as it stands, a little extra direction and polish could have led this album with a headwind. It’s ok though; I know Stormbound will keep trying, they’ve taken only their first steps. In the words of their own “Child’s Play,” they are determined to “live [their] dreams everyday.” I hope that next time around, I’m in for the whole game too.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 160 kbps mp3
Label: Self-released
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: August 5th, 2022

Show 3 footnotes

  1. Long live the pear!!.
  2. Yes, the tongue is an organ
  3. Husband and wife!
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