Aeons ago, long before I answered the casting call to write for this prestigious hostile work environment or had even commented on a review, I was but a reader and lurker of the site. Even then, I imagined that I might one day find my name written upon the sacred digital stone of AMG’s “About” tab. I fancied that I might form an inseparable bond with one Swordborn, the site’s apparent resident cheese custodian. In my fantasies, we’d frolic together through meadows like metal Cupids, firing 4.0’s and 4.5’s at power metal albums all willy nilly, laughing all the while. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be, as Swordborn left
in a contractor bag to live out his days enjoying the Angry Metal Pension before I ever came aboard. I miss the good chap and his power metal knowledge, and I hope he’s enjoying annihilation retirement.1
Today, I find myself reviewing German power/speeders Stormwarrior, a band that I am familiar with only through name drops in a couple of Swordborn‘s reviews. Norsemen is the band’s sixth full-length release of Viking-themed tales since their 1998 formation, and it sees them continuing to hone their style, one heavily influenced by their Germanic forbears Helloween, Running Wild, and Blind Guardian. Speed metal rhythms, melodic leads, and powerful choruses are the order of the day, all powered by the guitar playing and impassioned classic metal pipes of founding member Lars Ramcke. Beginning with an emotional instrumental complete with sound effects, keys, and a finger-picked acoustic melody that’s eerily reminiscent of Metallica‘s “Battery,” Norseman then blasts straight into its title track, and you’ll swear that you’ve just stepped into the Black Hand Inn. Running Wild-style tremolos abound as the song races with Euro-power speed and Ramcke blazes through solos.
There’s not much variety in pacing to be found on Norsemen, but the songs are all of such uniform quality that the album flies by much faster than its 50 minute runtime would suggest. “Storm of the North” recalls Blind Guardian‘s early speed metal attack, “Freeborn” is absolutely infectious with its Iron Maiden gallop and unforgettable chorus, and “Odin’s Fire” takes Dragonforce to school and teaches them how to truly blend catchiness with insane velocity. Stormwarrior save the best for last, by closing with the one-two punch of “Shield Wall” and “Sword of Valhalla.” The former has an incredible thrash riff and gives Amon Amarth‘s “Shield Wall” a run for its money for the best song called “Shield Wall” in 2019; the latter is an 11-minute epic with a subdued intro of melodic soaring leads that takes off into a power/speed master class and brings far more glory to the Norse gods than Manowar has in several decades.
About the only critique I can level at Norsemen is the at times blatant similarities to the great works of the bands mentioned above, but the level of commitment to the style and the impeccable performances stand on their own two feet and never once had me wanting to switch to something more familiar. The lyrics are predictably corny at times, but this is power metal so quit your bellyaching! Stormwarrior has their shit dialed in, and their shit is presented with a beautiful production. It’s hard to pick favorites here, but check out “Sword of the North,” “Freeborn,” “Norsemen (We Are),” “Shield Wall,” and “Sword of Valhalla” for some life-affirming cheese.
Life-affirming cheese. It’s what brings power metal lovers back to the refrigerator again and again. Tales of might, courage, strength, and overcoming adversity is the name of the game here, and I always appreciated Swordborn‘s love of this beautiful and much-maligned genre. I can never hope to reach the bloodcurdling and dairyful heights of that
late great power metal reviewer, but I’m glad I got to check out a band that tickled his fancy. The gods are with Stormwarrior on Norsemen, so grab an oar. Your longship is now boarding.