Stormwarrior - Thunder & Steele (Massacre Records)

Glorious stuff...
Release Date: 
24 Jan 2014 (All day)

It’s a long time since I’ve anything so ridiculously, gloriously heavy metal as Thunder & Steele, the fifth full-length album from German defenders of the faith Stormwarrior. It’s a record so perfect, so faithful in its adoration of everything we love about the genre you almost feel that it should be handed out for free on the National Health to anyone who’s doctor thinks they might have an iron deficiency…

The template is simple: the consistent homage to the Helloween album Walls of Jericho. It’s been done before of course (some cynics might say four times already by this band alone), but I’m struggling to come up with one single example of the style being done better – save on the original article, of course – ever in the history of heavy metal. Walls of Jericho is one of my three favourite albums of all time (the other two, since you ask, are Restless and Wild by Accept and Legacy of Kings by HammerFall), so you’d think I’d laugh off Stormwarrior as simple, tribute-band bozos ripping off my heroes for shits n’giggles; But the reverence here is so true, so stone-facedly sincere, that’s it’s impossible not to hold out a hand in deference and to utter a hearty ‘hail, brother’ in recognition of fellow travellers who understand at the most basic level what it is about this music that draws us in and keeps us within its thrall. 

The first five songs on the album – the title track, Metal Avenger, Sacred Blade, Ironborn and Steelcrusher – are, quite frankly, faultless. Ironborn, in particular, is timeless, classic Germanic speed metal, the perfection all of us seek in a song executed in four minutes and forty eight seconds of heavy metal thunder. It’s got it all – magnificent drumming courtesy of Jörg Uken, those patented harmony guitars of Weikath and Hansen (but played to a tee here by Lars Ramcke and Alex Guth – Ramcke also provides the superb Hansenesque lead vocals) and, most uproariously of all, the fabulous basswork of Yenz Leonhardt, who’s tumbling, super melodic basslines bring to mind the master Marcus Grosskopf in their dexterity and sheer off-the-scale-monstrousness – and it’s a song you’ll just keep wanting to listen too once it’s made its way into your affections (i.e. after just the one listen).

The second half of the album is slightly less immediate but no less effective. In real terms the band has done everything it needs to do with this album in those first five songs; the rest is all dotting Is, crossing ts and adding umlauts, but the glorious whole is quite simply the best album of its type I’ve heard in the last ten years. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to listen to it again.