Stormwarrior – Heathen Warrior (Massacre Records)

Saturday, 23rd March 2013
Rating: 7.5/10

Frankly, one could do a lot worse impersonation of Walls of Jericho-era Helloween than Heathen Warrior. It sure beats riding the coattails of Stratovarius or finding similar-looking loin cloths like Manowar. In the case of Germany’s Stormwarrior, their career has largely been marked by the fact that original ‘Weenie Kai Hansen took a liking to them, going as far to appear with them onstage for renditions of classic Helloween songs, and taking on the role of pseudo-mentor. It makes sense; Hansen probably sees a lot of the younger version of himself in Stormwarrior.

Subtract the drum machine, and Heathen Warrior (the band’s fourth full-length) emerges as a relatively docile, but effective album. Singer Lars Ramcke couldn’t sound more like the aforementioned Hansen, and would probably prompt those without the benefit of album infomation to think that is in fact, Hansen singing. Nevertheless, the sing-along choruses of the title track and excellent “The Returne” (the band has an annoying habit of tacking on an “e” to some of their titles) give the album ample muster, even as heard-it-all-before melodies zip by at a moment’s pass.

The band takes the necessary power metal plunge on the zippy “Heirs to the Flighte,” where a multitude of twin guitar harmonies baste the song like a turkey. Because this is an early Helloween knock-off, some significant nods to Gamma Ray are found on “Fyre and Ice” and “Wolven Nights,” yet neither land the way they should thanks to the annoying pitter-patter of the drum machine. Guess Gamma Ray’s always-available Daniel Zimmerman wasn’t available, for once.

Destined to the make the Euro metal crowd froth at the mouth, Heathen Warrior won’t make anyone forget Walls of Jericho or the Helloween EP (how could anyone not? “Ride the Sky” is on this), yet the band’s thorough and extracting use of the power metal template laid down by Kai Hansen and friends is commendable, if nothing else. Now all Stormwarrior needs is a song about a reptile and they’re really set.

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