May 20, 2019 Stormlord – Far (Album Review)
Italian Extreme Metal legends Stormlord return on Friday, May 24th with their first full-length album in six long years, Far.
Founded back in 1991 by Cristiano Borchi, Claudio Di Carlo, and Riccardo Montanari, the band saw a spate of lineup changes early on. That in mind, by the time their debut album, Supreme Art of War, was released in 1999, Borchi had switched to focusing on vocals, and every other position had turned over multiple times. Bassist Francesco Bucci and Drummer David Folchitto would join the band, and remain today, with the current lineup rounded out by Guitarist Gianpaolo Caprino, whose time with the band dates back to 2002, as well as Guitarist Andrea Angelini and Keyboardist Riccardo Studer, both of whom made their debut on 2013’s Hesperia.
Returning with Far, an album recorded between the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019 by Novembre’s Giuseppe Orlando along with Riccardo Studer, while Simone Mularoni (DGM) took care of the mastering duties, Stormlord have shifted their musical style to a more Symphonic Metal sound. However, the main dueling vocals are still rooted in the band’s origins within Black and Death Metal. Their first album via Scarlet Records, the cover art by Gyula Havancsák (Accept, Wintersun) adds to the lyrical theme which ranges from the traditions of the peoples of the Mediterranean to the myth and glory of the ancient Rome, but also pays tribute to Robert E. Howard, author of Conan The Barbarian.
Consisting of 10 new tracks, “Invictus” and “Romulus” add in vocals spoken by A. G. Volgar in a near-monotone and the band deftly switches between these vocal styles as the rest of the band holds its own. The clean voices in “Vacuma,” and much of the surrounding instrumentation, sounds like a strong nod to the same style approached by Norwegian Black Metal legends Emperor during “The Loss and Curse of Reverence” in the late 1990s.
As mentioned, Stormlord also takes time to honor its homeland as well as its ancestral neighbors. This is clear with”Leviathan,” a track which adds some interesting Eastern/Mediterranean elements nears its close, while its partner “Mediterranea” would fit nicely alongside the more recent output from Greek outfit Septicflesh. Then there is “Sherden,” which takes its name from an ancient sea-faring people who patrolled the dark waters of Egypt and other areas on the eastern side of the familiar Mediterranean Sea. This is while “Cimmeria” begins and ends with an almost Rock-n-Roll cliché, before paying homage to the poem of the same name, penned by the aforementioned Robert E. Howard.
The album’s finale, “Levante,” captures the band at its darkest nadir as a briskly uplifting introduction is blown to pieces by melodic guitar and crushing blast beats. This is followed by guttural Death Metal vocals that take the first pass, backed equally by searing Black Metal snarls and soaring Power Metal keyboards. As with “Sherden” earlier, the band closely but cautiously approaches Progressive Metal territory, before leaping to old-school Black Metal and away just as quickly, before nearing the original aspects of Heavy Metal, if not Rock-n-Roll proper. As elsewhere, the alternating vocal styles—unique blend of guttural death vocals with the more traditional high-pitched scowls expected of a Black Metal outfit—keep the band rooted in the extremes of the Metal world. That is not to say the band is trapped, or lost, between any of these genres. In fact, it is quite the contrary, they drink deeply from the strengths of each into a strong, unique blend that is difficult to categorize and even more difficult to copy.
Six years may have passed since Hesperia, but the band is as strong in its identity as ever. That said, Far contains fifty minutes of strong, fiery Symphonic Metal that will please existing fans while attracting those as diverse as Norwegian Black Metal, Hellenic Death Metal, and even some of the boldest Battle Metal from England and beyond. That is why Cryptic Rock gives this album 3.5 out of 5 stars.