March 17, 2014

Stormforge - Sea of Stone

Written by Craig Hayes.

If you were to slice the metal scene right down the middle, on its hemisphere axis, it’s the southern portion that’s generally presumed to be home to bands with a certain bloodthirsty temper. Asia and Australia have produced utterly filthy and ferocious extreme metal luminaries aplenty, while New Zealand is home to globally respected bands like the commanding Vassafor, Doom Cult crushers Diocletian and Witchrist, and, obviously, death metal doyen Ulcerate.

Of course, New Zealand’s metal scene didn’t spontaneously erupt in a raft of extreme metal bruisers, it was born from those power metal and New Wave of British Heavy Metal influenced bands that formed the foundations of the scene. However, aside from Demoniac providing members for the internationally successful, UK-based, DragonForce, New Zealand doesn’t really have a profile for power or traditional metal bands at all.

That’s been somewhat remedied of late, and recently, here on Metal Bandcamp, I highlighted the debut EP, Ironhead, from Red Dawn—a band fixed on the hammering harmonies of power metal, more than the outright venom of extreme metal. So it is with Stormforge. The five-piece, Auckland-based, band recently released their four track debut EP, Sea Of Stone, on Bandcamp, and there’s no doubting Stormforge’s influences or inspirations on the EP. Sea of Stone is indebted to power metal’s forefathers—Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Blind Guardian, Helloween, etc—and that same sense of artists combining dramatic theatrics with maestro musicianship features heavily.

Guitarist’s Miro Kao and Flynn Fredriksson tear into Sea Of Stone’s upbeat opening track, “Immolation to Infinity”, with all power metal cannons firing; before vocalist Courtney O'Leary arrives, to bring his powerful classic metal howls and operatic wails. More of the same melodic meticulousness arrives on “As The Night Sky Burns”, as up-tempo, rousing riffs from duelling virtuoso guitars sprint around a galloping rhythm section provided by drummer Antony Mifsud-Houghton and bassist Thomas O'Leary. “Death Sings In The Night” slows things down, for some smouldering balladry, before bursting, inevitably, into a flaming lead-guitar section. Final track, the nine-minute titular epic, “Sea Of Stone”, sees sweeping, progressive metal melodies all advancing towards the inescapable climax; where O'Leary’s soaring vocals segue into, well, hell bent for leather guitars, for a duly epic finale of blazing and shredding soloing.

In all, Sea of Stone features plenty of dynamic and energetic metal, it’s rich in fiery licks and spirited tempos, and contains those all important and enthusiastic injections of over-the-top histrionics that make power metal such a joy for fans in the first place. Like any opening gambit, there’s probably some nerves attached to Sea Of Stone, but Stormforge have nothing to be concerned about here. The EP features a crisp and crunchy production—courtesy of Diocletian and Witchrist drummer Cameron Sinclair—and all up, what Sea Of Stone does best of all, is leave you wanting to hear more.

That’s exactly what you want from your debut recording, and that’s exactly what Stormforge delivers, in spades.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]