Stormruler – “Under The Burning Eclipse” (Napalm Records)
Battle Helm Rating
Pure imperial black metal warfare from St Louis, Missouri! Yessir, the dark duo of vocalist / guitarist Jason Asberry (Bastard, Harkonin, ex-Absala, Faustian Nihilist, ex-Fister (live), ex-Brokeneck) and drummer / vocalist Jesse Schobel (Cast the Stone, Legend, Oracle, ex-Absala, Clenched Fist, Rising Earth, ex-Scour) issued this monster debut back last year, but now it’s been given a grand ceremonial re-release befitting its utter musical decadence and debauchery. Fuelled by war, fantasy and history, the 19 tracks (!) are an equal mixture of ambient instrumental interludes and songs, with the former offering a much-needed breather from the savage fury of the latter! But is it all much ado about nothing? Well, the style and sound may not be original, nor did I feel spiritually possessed by any means, but as a musical accomplishment the composing and performances are nothing short of excellent, delivering riffs on par with the best black metal bands out there along with an intensity to match, at least in the studio. As the evil whirring riffs drill in on ‘Reign Of The Winged Duke’, the nuclear blast beating detonates to banshee screamo topped off by epic Nordic melodies all slickly arranged across a range of tempo changes to create utter musical delight. Calming it all down is the 42 second keyboard serenity of ‘The March Onto Golden Lands’ before the double bass barrage to ‘Age Of Steel And Blood’ unleashes more mayhem through even more perverse riffs mixed with heretical rantings and that all important epic touch making for another hugely catchy and electric shocker of a number. By now getting used to Stormruler’s hot / cold compress therapy, the mysterious ‘Culling Of The Blood Moon’ offers just over a minute’s respite before Thor’s hammer sounds on ‘Blood Of The Old Wolf’ through its cold, metallic scaling and superb epic Nordic riff combination that just crashes away bombastically as it rocks you to Valhalla, such is its power and passion! Building on the dark somber atmosphere of ‘Prithee, Chosen’, the fury unleashed on ‘Of Hollowed Souls And Distant Flames’ cannot be understated, nor can its excellence in catchy scything riffs, dexterous fretboard scalings and of course, epic warrior glory completed by a Viking mouth harp – truly awesome. A truly impressive (re)release, Stormruler have bravely taken on a well-established formula into which they have forged new levels of musical perfection.