Stormhunter - Crime and punishment 4/5

Reviewed: 1-1-12


1. Last words
2. Perfect world
3. Condemned stranger
4. Knights of metal (part I)
5. Reality, fatality
6. Robot age
7. Unholy seed
8. Inner demon
9. The final battle
10. Crime and punishment

Hailing from Germany, Stormhunter aim to stake their claim to the Running Wild crown as kings of high-speed, high-melody, rollicking true heavy metal. Not to be confused with fellow (and like-minded) Teutonic metallers Stormrider and Stormwarrior, Stormhunter first hit the metal radar screen in 2009 with their self-released, 's/t' 7-track debut (which was excruciatingly difficult to find in the U.S.). That debut generated sufficient positive buzz in underground metal circles that cool up’n’coming French true metal label Emanes Metal signed Stormhunter and recently released their 2nd CD, entitled ‘Crime and punishment’.

Do you like old Running Wild laced with bits of ‘Walls of Jericho’ Helloween, early Steel Attack and a dash of more obscure 80s German acts like Brainfever and Atlain? What about proud Teutonic steel, defiant and unapologetic in its purity from the first note to the last? Are you enamored of fast tempos, galloping rhythms, gang-shouted choruses, and those brilliant melodic Rock’n’Rolf-style riffs? Then ‘Crime and punishment’ belongs on your “buy-or-die” list. They bear obvious similarities to French masters Lonewolf (now signed to Napalm Records, awesome!), except that Stormhunter stay more consistently in the high-velocity tempos and perhaps aren’t as refined in approach or songwriting craft as the Dark Crusaders from France. But there’s no doubt that the 2 acts are cut from the same cloth, working from the same influences and inhabiting similar musical territory.

The only potential weak link in Stormhunter’s incredible wall of sound is vocalist Frank Urschler. Honestly, the guy’s voice oozes passion and love for heavy metal, but none of that completely obscures the inescapable fact that he’s not a very good singer. He reminds me of a less gruff, less powerful Jens Borner (Lonewolf), who himself is something of a polarizing vocalist. Initially, the vocals struck me as a significant drawback, but the more I listen to Stormhunter, the less I mind Urschler. I’ve now evolved to the point where the vocals on ‘Crime and punishment’ don’t really detract from the incredible music at all, in my book, and in parts can be downright enjoyable. Be forewarned, though, that if you’re a stickler for technically gifted singers, you may be disappointed. Then again, bands in this particular sub-genre aren’t really known for their singers, as most of them tend to be of the rough’n’ready variety. Stormwarrior’s Lars Ramcke, X-Wild’s Frank Knight and even Rock’n’Rolf himself have been known to irritate picky listeners. Urschler definitely fits that lineage. Assuming you can tolerate those guys and Jens Borner, you should be able to make your peace with Stormhunter’s vocals, with just a little time and effort.

What you really need to know is that ‘Crime and punishment’ is an inspired outing of old-school galloping German heavy metal at its best. Song after song delivers those timeless guitar melodies and anthemic, shout-a-long choruses, all wrapped in a musical format that’s all about speed, power and energy. A track like “Knights of metal (part I)” (strangely enough part II was on the 2009 debut) is a true metal anthem of the highest order, erupting with a classic Running Wild melodic motif as the harmonized guitars and thundering double-bass flurries carry the listener to a timeless sing-a-long chorus. And the lyrics name-check not only songs from popular mainstream metal acts like Manowar, W.A.S.P., and Slayer, but also Running Wild (“ready for boarding,” the line goes), Blind Guardian (“journey through the dark”), and Helloween/Accept (“starlight”). Elsewhere, “Inner demon” and “Perfect world” are catchy full-throttle smashers that stand proudly in the tradition of ‘Death or glory’ or the last Lonewolf CD. And 7-minute roller-coaster closer “Crime and punishment” brilliantly melds a gentle intro with curiously restrained melody lines before giving way to an all-out frenzied metal attack in the mid-section, only to ease up again at the end.

With this kind of music, if it’s not in your blood, then you truly never will understand. For those steeped in the purest Teutonic steel, ‘Crime and punishment’ is a no-brainer. Guitarist/chief writer Stefan Muller and his bandmates are truly gifted at this style of heavy metal, and represent a great hope for this style of music, whether 2012’s Running Wild “reunion” CD successfully recaptures the magic of olde or not. Forever in our hearts, the legacy of the Wild, indeed.




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