Stormzone // Zero to Rage
Rating: 4.0/5.0 —Be TRUE to your (old) school
Label: SPV Records
Websites: myspace.com/stormzoneuk | facebook.com/stormzonemetal
Release Dates:Â EU: Out now! | US: 11.22.2011
Way back as a newbie first year reviewer for the world-renowned Angry Metal Guy, no release floored me quite like Stormzone‘s Death Dealer. Although I’d never heard of these Belfast hooligans, their hardcore NWOBHM worship and excellent song writing really got my blood riled up. Accordingly, Death Dealer got Steel Druhm’s only perfect score for 2010 and ended up my album of the year as well. Fast forward to 2011 and it’s a grizzled, jaded, cynical Steel Druhm that greets their new release, Zero to Rage. So, do things look different now that my doe-eyed youth has been drained away by long hours, crappy releases, zero pay and spiteful hate mail? Not really! They still embody the very essence of the NWOBHM style that I love dearly and still traffic in the ways of Saxon, Grim Reaper, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. When they hit their stride, they’re as metal as metal gets and no school sounds older. They also prove once again they’re capable of writing metal anthems that rock my metalverse. While this is a little less immediate than Death Dealer, it’s yet another mammoth dose of old style metal with enough hooks for a month-long fishing trip and enough muscle for an amateur bodybuilding contest. These guys have an infectious swagger and charm all their own and it’s still coming through loud and proud. So, don your high tops, skin-tight jeans and bullet belts and climb aboard the Way Back Machine as I set the dial to 1983!
Things pick up exactly where Death Dealer left off and both “Where We Belong” and the title track are HUGE songs that Saxon would have gleefully killed Def Leppard to possess. This is anthemic, studded-glove-in-the-air music that makes me grin like an idiot (if you aren’t raising a fist during the title track, you’re clinically dead). Both are super catchy and put across with deadly conviction by “Harv” Harbinson’s excellent vocals. These are the kinds of songs you want playing as you bravely march into an epic battle against orcs, trolls, nazis and hippies (all must die!). This is Stormzone at their best and I love it muchly. The same goes for massively hooky, traditional metal chestnuts like “Jester’s Laughter,” “This Is Our Victory” and “Empire of Fear.” Pretty much every song is loaded with commanding vocals and gritty, rugged riffs. Things are generally kept straight-forward and simple with an ear toward melody and accessibility but the musicianship does come through in the solos and some of the more interesting riff patterns. The style never deviates from the tried-and-true 80s and that’s fine with me.
The only song that falls completely flat is “Fear Hotel,” which just doesn’t fit in with the rest of the material and comes across as a bit goofy. Another issue is the run time of several songs. While most are punchy, catchy and fun, several run too long (“Last Man Fighting” being the worst culprit). On last minor point is the repetition of ideas within the songs. A few take a good chorus or segment and hammer at it too long. All in all though, this is a very well-written, highly enjoyable collection of “true metal” songs.
As with Death Dealer, Harv’s vocals are the star of the show and his Blaze Bayley meets Steve Grimmet styleÂ is great fun. He’s one of the rare vocalists that can make even the most cliched, Manowar-approved lyrics seem sincere. His tough mid-range grounds things but he can soar as needed. Helping Harv along is the big box of NWOBHM flavored riffs Keith Harris and Steve Moore unpack throughout Zero to Rage. At times you hear Saxon, other times Maiden. Regardless, they have this style down cold and they churn out a lot of fist pumping energy with a heaping side order of testosterone.
Stormzone has excavated a comfortable niche in the metal world and they’re mining it for every ounce of old-timey steel glory. If your interests don’t include revisiting the days of metal lore, this may leave you flat. However, if you cherish the sound of traditional 80s metal like Steel Druhm does, this will work wonders for your spirit. Keep it coming Stormzone, keep it coming.