Stormage – Ashes of Doom (El Puerto Records)Monday, 29th May 2023
Many ardent listeners in power metal notice distinctions even within that category depending on how the musicians choose to approach their sound, tones, and influences. In the case of German quartet Stormage, they started as the band Anthem from 1996-2003 before changing names (the Japan act probably having more of an established foothold globally), currently releasing three previous albums before signing to El Puerto Records for this fourth record Ashes of Doom. While many think ‘power’ includes uplifting vocal melodies, sixteenth note tempos, plus this ripping surge of magical warriors appearing against a tidal wave of riffs, others choose to go down a heavier, darker road than being hymn-based – and that’s what you’ll get throughout these twelve tracks.
The main rhythm guitar foundation and supplementary harmony/lead break outlook comes from alignment with US/German influences that contain a sturdy nature, much like older Vicious Rumors, Brainstorm, or Manimal – Heiko Heseler and Tim Sonnenstuhl stellar in filling the aural landscape with numerous licks, tricks, and tantalizing hooks. The bass/drum components from Dirk Heggemann and Vasileios Georgiou adapt to whatever tempo, atmosphere, or feel the specific track demands – be it more anthem-laden for “Slide On Your Knees” (where the Orden Ogan-esque gang vocals shine) or slightly commercial-oriented in terms of the circular movements and transitional drama during “Blood Shot Eyes”. The galloping nature plus twin guitar melodies floating in and out make “Beyond the Horizon” an instant headbanging favorite, while the quieter acoustic/electric interplay during “Ashes of My Doom” gives Heiko’s reflective vocals more impact as they rise from opening verse to a mead hall-like chorus. An Itchy and Scratchy sample adds a humorous touch to the pounding “The Spirit Never Dies”, a racing effort chock full of more Brainstorm meets early Iced Earth-style action. There’s a nice diverse balance in terms of the songwriting and performances, alert to provide listeners with an array of vocal/musical elements in the power metal arsenal, always leaving room for those Teutonic/larger than life choruses for audiences to scream/shout back in unity.
With Orden Ogan’s Sebastian ‘Seeb’ Levermann manning co-production / stem mastering duties. Stormage has established that they are very well-versed in great performances with a steady supply of hooks that stay embedded for weeks/months beyond initial exposure. Ashes of Doom provides followers into heavier/crunchier aspects of US/German power metal another platter to champion.