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Review

North Hammer – Stormcaller Review

Band: North Hammer
Album: Stormcaller
Label: Self-Released
Genre: Melodic Death Metal / Folk Metal
Country: Canada
Release Date: 16th March, 2018

A legendary warrior falls to his knees, the hilt of a sword embedded in his chest up to its hilt.  He drops his own sword, its thirsty blade quenched with the blood of his enemies. Even in this moment, his face a ravaged mask of pain, he looks beyond the battlefield towards the heavens.  The enemy has paid tenfold for his death – and tonight, there will be feasting, beer, and mirth in the vaunted halls of Valhalla!

North Hammer evokes such Norse imagery with the release of their debut album Stormcaller.  The band is the brainchild of musician Andrew James, who plays guitar, bass, vocals, and orchestration on the album.  He is accompanied by musician Doug Helcaraxë Nunez on the drum kit.  Stormcaller is a melodic death metal album with folk elements heavily influenced by bands like Ensiferum and Finntroll.  It’s an average debut album that attempts to outpace its generic elements by invigorating its music with various folk elements.

Stormcaller fades in to epic singing with the opener “Avatar.”  Then, a guitar riff rolls in like an avalanche in the Swiss Alps, blanketing the listener with a crisp, melodic death metal sound.  “Avatar” sets the tone of the album and draws the listener in, all while proving that Andrew James knows how to execute a musical vision.  “Wanderer” begins with singing; it’s as if the warriors in a mead hall are bellowing the glory of the North lands.  “Wanderer” is filled with catchy riffs, guitar solos, and even an acoustic interlude that mark it as one of the strongest tracks on Stormcaller.

The third track on Stormcaller opens with strings and ominous drumming.  An atmospheric guitar line fades in to accompany the other instruments on “Written in the Stars.”  The song has a slower pacing than the previous two songs and seems to draw its influences more from melodic acts like Insomnium and Wintersun.  North Hammer takes a step backward after an excellent run in its first three songs.  Everything about “Magic Mead” comes off as generic – from its tacky name, lyrics, and stereotypical guitar riffs.

“Tip of the Spear” begins with a spoken narration that would fit right in on an Ex Deo or Bolt Thrower album.  James’s vocals, growled with passion, show that the band is back on track after the previous song.  “A Soldier’s Song” is a track that is easy to overlook.  It has some generic melodic death metal elements in the song, but there is also an interweaving melody and memorable chorus that lifts the song up out of mediocrity.

In terms of album structure, the instrumental “Black Forest Rain” is in the right spot, giving the listener a momentary lull from the crushing walls of sonic fury that came beforehand.  However, it seems like a generic piece overall; the atmospheric sounds of rain falling are accompanied by acoustic and soft drumming.  It comes off similar to a dozen songs that I’ve heard before, literally an “insert generic instrumental here” gimmick.

“Spellbinder” also fails to impress.  The song needs some varied folk elements to help it stand out.  Another epic chorus would have also fit well here.  “North Hammer,” the ninth track and the band’s namesake, is an anthemic melodic death metal song with blistering drumming and guitar work.  “Lion’s Winter” is the final track on Stormcaller.  It doesn’t offer much in the way of new concepts or material that can’t be previously found on the record.

Stormcaller is an average record that suffers from an overall lack of consistency.  Fans of melodic death metal and folk metal acts will find something to enjoy on the album, but don’t expect to be blown away by the next folk metal masterpiece.  The first part of the record was much more unique than the latter half; it’s a shame that the band didn’t continue in that vein.  If Andrew James can pick up additional musicians to add to the band’s roster, the sky could be the limit for North Hammer.

Rating: 6/10

Tracklist:

  1. Avatar
  2. Wanderer
  3. Written In The Stars
  4. Magic Mead
  5. Tip of the Spear
  6. A Soldier’s Song
  7. Black Forest Rain
  8. Spellbinder
  9. North Hammer
  10. Lion’s Winter

Total Playing Time: 37:17

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