ICS Vortex – Storm Seeker (Century Media Records)

Friday, 22nd March 2013
Rating: 7.5/10

He of the husky, bear-skinned throat, towering persona and fleet-of-fingered bass skills, ICS Vortex (real name: Simon Hestenes) is best known for his decade-long stint with Dimmu Borgir, which ended abruptly in 2009. Prior to that, the Norwegian cut his teeth in Borknagar (whom he has since rejoined) and Arcturus (who are on-again, off-again), but the focus for now is on his first solo album, Storm Seeker.

Designed around Vortex’s booming clean vocal delivery (think a plus-sized Freddy Mercury), Storm Seeker wisely stays out of the black metal wheelhouse, a move that would have been far too easy to fall prey to. Flanked by several of his Borknagar bandmates, the album has the grip and feel of any album coming out Norway, meaning there’s a vast portion of icy melodies and a prog influence that isn’t outside of the reach of countrymen Enslaved.

Still, a lot of these songs just miss hitting paydirt, especially “Odin’s Tree,” where a skimpy vocal melody nearly evokes the awe-striking glory of Borknagar’s Archaic Course, only to be pulled back for a barrage of 70’s guitars and quasi-black metal riffing. And some may be turned off by the peppy “Skoal!” or “Windward,” which is rescued by a triumphant chorus, but is hindered by a quietly-sung verse that feels a bit off coming from a guy who routinely rescued many a bland Dimmu Borgir composition.

As one of the better vocalists in extreme metal, Vortex has long been given material that never quite suited his superior singing abilities. One would think that in his own solo platform, such a thing would be corrected, but on Storm Seeker those sheer moments of brilliance that essentially made Vortex thesinger he is today aren’t out in full-force as they should be. Maybe the upcoming Borknagar (where he is teaming with the equally-awesome Vintersorg) will be what the doctor ordered…

www.myspace.com/icsvortex

(This content originally appeared on Blistering.com)