Stormhunter – Best Before: Death (MDD Records)

Wednesday, 20th March 2024
Rating: 8 / 10

Germany has always been a steady force in the heavy/power metal category – never wavering for the style when other countries sought out extreme or alternative forms of musical expression. Stormhunter live for this traditional, classic style, together since 1998 and releasing their fourth album for Best Before: Death. Although it’s been a decade since the last full-length, the band issued two EPs in that interim through Ready for Boarding in 2020 plus Strangle With Care in 2022. Bask in the natural prowess present in these nine tracks (shorter instrumentals “Morituri Te Salutant” and “A Mourning in August” open/close the record), followers of culturally motivating riffs, larger than life vocal choirs, as well as galloping, kick ass tempo work will find plenty to treasure here.

The guitar interplay between Burkhard Ulrich and Stefan Müller rivals the greats from the 80s and 90s – obviously gaining inspiration from the Iron Maiden, Running Wild, and Blind Guardian catalogs when you take in their picking techniques, circular/cultural runs, as well as excitement in twin harmony/lead break passages through songs such as “Berceau De L’Enfer” and “Reaper”. Personal experiences in different aspects of death, from loss to redemption, make the word content engaging, allowing the listener to submerge themselves with relatable thoughts to process time and again. The main vocal presence from Frank Urschler has more of a mid-range folk-ish nature to his verses, the unison choirs keep the choruses easily attainable for even the most fearful audience singers of the world. Most will be hard pressed not to be screaming / vocalizing to the key hooks for “Altar of Illusions” or the Blind Guardian-esque “Empty Shell” (think Tales from the Twilight World-era here), the former alluring musically on its cleaner intro that builds into a tremendous, headbanging force of a song. Long-time producer Christoph Brandes at Iguana Studios keeps the sound overall primitive, so that the natural studio to live aspect won’t throw people for a loop.

The artwork of Timon Kokott contains the right mixture of expected and deeper details one would want in a metal album during any time period. Through Best Before: Death, Stormhunter stay true to the Teutonic power/heavy metal tenets that never grow old, firing up the legions who can’t get enough of those songs that elevate bodies to scream at the glory of this style.

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