Stormrider - Fate of the hunter 4/5

Reviewed: 4-10-09


1. Warpath
2. Fate of the hunter
3. Flames of passion
4. Under the veil
5. Impure
6. Crossroads
7. Fugitive
8. We are one
9. Taste my steel
10. The slaughter's on

German stalwarts Stormrider (not to be confused with the myriad other Stormriders out there) first attracted my attention with their 2003 debut EP, 'Vengeance', a solid indie slab of Iced Earth-influenced traditional/true metal. The band took the necessary step forward, incorporating 80s U.S. metal influences such as Omen as well, with their 2005 full-length debut, 'Shipwrecked', which saw the light of day through the Underground Symphony label. I was pleased to learn that the generally strong Pure Steel label snatched up Stormrider for the release of their most recent CD, 'Fate of the hunter', late last year.

'Fate of the hunter' does not revolutionize the old-school true metal genre, but it represents a very fine example of the style. Everything I loved about Stormrider's earlier recordings remains intact here, including the lower-pitched Matt Barlow-inspired vocals of Stefan Hebes, the Iron Maiden-infused twin melodic guitar excitement of Ingo Rieger and Jan Gerbracht, the galloping rhythm section, and the songwriting that recalls classic Omen, albeit with more of an epic twist and some longer song forms. There are spots (for example, "Taste my steel") where I am reminded of bands like Sacred Steel, Wizard, and Deja Vu, but for the most part Stormrider lean more towards the classic American metal style than the Grave Digger/Running Wild/Accept mold that typifies the German scene.

Lyrically, I understand that 'Fate of the hunter' is something of a concept album, involving a vampiric hunter who falls in love with a beautiful girl who turns into a bloodsucking monster by night. (Don't they all?) When the vampire's clan disapproves, captures and executes the girl, the hunter goes all medieval on them and slaughters them all. Or something like that. It ain't Shakespeare, it ain't King Diamond, and it ain't even Jon Schaffer, but it's fun nonetheless and includes all the time-honored plot elements of star-crossed love, exile, loss, and revenge. Suffice it to say that the story does not interfere with one's enjoyment of the music, and I'd never even know there was a lyrical concept had I not seen interviews with the band laying it all out.

In terms of favorite songs, I think that all of the material is impressive, but tracks 6 through 8 are particularly appealing to me, so a few words about these cuts are warranted. Track 6 is "Crossroads", an 8-minute roller-coaster epic featuring some inspired and flashy dual guitar work by the Rieger/Gerbracht tandem, a variety of tempos, and a brilliant chorus in which our protagonist is lamenting the crossroads of his life and making his choice to stick with bloodsucking-monster girl even as his vampire clan expels him from the tribe. Then comes "Fugitives", a galloping banger that gives way to a mournful chorus, just littered with cool guitar melodies and lyrics describing the pair's flight from the vampire tribe. "Fugitives" gives way to "We are one", a monster speedster in which our heroes have been separated by remain united by their blood and an unholy force. "We are one" just might be the best song on the CD, and one of the best true metal songs released in 2009 thus far.

I listen to a lot of music in this style, so it's not cheap praise to say that 'Fate of the hunter' is the finest old-school true metal CD to cross my desk in months. It won't win any awards for originality, but it's an extremely professional, well-executed release with good vocals, great guitars, and loads of energy. That's good enough for me. Stormrider have indicated their intent to release a follow-up by late 2009. I'll be first in line. For now, though, as the band are fond of saying in their liner notes, let metal reign!




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