Even though I spend a lot of time listening to black metal (and anything and everything King Diamond), I hold a very special place in my heart for power metal. At any given time, you can walk by my office and hear an Iced Earth, Blind Guardian, or Metalium (yep, I said it) song reverberating off the walls and echoing down the hallway. But for the most part, I find that I have heard all there is to hear since it was created by the early boilermakers of the genre. Fantastical concepts, heavy-metal influenced riffage, killer vocalists, emotion-oozing ballads, and gargantuan choruses that stick to you like prickly pear. Nowadays, if a power-metal outfit wants to get my attention, they either have to put forward something novel or nail the style as well as the originals (much like my requirement for retro-thrash bands). But some bands do neither and Stormhammer‘s Echoes of a Lost Paradise is living proof that I can’t always get what I want.
Since gracing us with their presence on 2000’s Fireball, Stormhammer has released three albums between then and Echoes of a Lost Paradise. The only thing that has changed significantly in this band’s career are their vocalists (now on number four) and their label. After debuting on Century Media with Fireball and Cold Desert Moon, this German outfit moved on and improved on their third release, Lord of Darkness. Tommy Lion’s Kai Hansen approach came off stronger and more confident on Lords… (versus their sophomore release), and the keys and chunky riffs gave a bit more meat to sink a jointed hook into. Not a significant improvement from Cold Desert Moon, but one with a touch more staying power. Changing vocalists yet again (this time to Mike Zotter), Stormhammer released another slab of standard power metal akin to Lord of Darkness in the form of Signs of Revolution. Zotter did a decent job with a gruffier, almost Sabaton-like vocal approach compared to Lion’s straight-forward power-metal highs.
And that brings us to Echoes of a Lost Paradise and (you guessed it) another new vocalist (this time the Hansi-wannabe Jürgen Dachl). But like I said, the vocalist is the only thing new about Echoes… That being sad, Dachl has a solid voice and his mix of highs, gruffs, and even some growls on “Leaving” and “Stormrider” (no, not that one) put up a fight to keep some of these ditties memorable. Unfortunately, with standard power-metal writing behind him, there really isn’t a whole lot of new territory for him to venture into. However, the writing and performances do come together on numbers like “Holy War” and the sappy ballad, “Into Darkest Void.” But “Holy War” was only awesome the first time I heard it; fifteen years ago on Fireball. Still a great song but that pretty much sums it all up right there.
The other problem Stormhammer has is that they consistently release hour-long albums that don’t see much variety from song-to-song. While “Holy War” and the title track are great songs, they could both use some trimming to break the repetition and boost impact. Also requiring trims are “Fast Life,” “Black Clouds,” and “Bloody Tears.” The first two songs completely lack memorability, and the last has the oddest upbeatness to it (almost bebop-ish) that crushes the flow of the album. This is made worse by the fact it sits in the middle of the track order. Closer “The Ocean” also has a strangeness to it but it’s softness and catchiness make it slightly more bearable.
Overall, this record fits on the same plane as Lords of Darkness and Signs of Revolution; some good stuff, some not-so-good stuff (and a new rendition of a killer track from another album). Along with the music, the grape crusher is spun down so tight on the production that you’ll find yourself more willing to bear the brickwalling of the newest Blind Guardian release than this one. I honestly wanted this to be good but it’s so run-of-the-mill that I have a hard time enjoying it.
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3