Far too many power metal albums just flash the, admittedly fantastic if not virtuosic, guitar leads atop big choruses without paying much attention to writing quality songs, most just sounding like copies of Helloween or Gamma Ray. There are exceptions, for instance, the Italians Temperance whose third album The Earth Embraces Us All²⁰¹⁶ I’d given a perfect score I have never come to regret doing because it is an absolutely stunning peace of work (for details check out my review). What made it an exception, though, was precisely getting away from the standard power metal blueprint, creating almost a progressive power metal work where every track was different, which is precisely what drew me to the English quartet Stormborn, whose 2nd album (after the independent eponymous²⁰¹²) , Zenith²⁰²⁴ was released on April 26th via Rockshot Records, a label which is usually associated with the mighty promoter Jon Asher and Asher Media Relations, as is the case here.

Several factors advocate in favor of the near perfect score I gave Zenith²⁰²⁴. For starters, the band had existed for 5 years after inception before making their debut album released independently and then disbanded 7 years later just before the pandemic, only to reassemble during to start working on their 2nd album which should bring them the recognition they deserve. Secondly, the name Stormborn may sound genre cliche but I assure you that David Viner (2007-2019, 2021-guitars), Laurence Armitage (2007-2013, 2014-2019, 2021-guitars), Andy Felton (2007-2019, 2021-drums), Simon “Steve” Ball (2011-2019, 2021-bass) and Christopher Adam Simmons (2021-vocals) have hardly created an album full of genre-typical songs, and, in fact, that every track is different enough to stand out from the rest yet similar enough to be recognized as the same band, which is an achievement in its own right. Out of 9 tracks, two being an opening instrumental (Call Of The Void) and a mid-album interlude (The Unending Night) every one of the seven songs is packed with melodies, solos and vocal, (sometimes multiple within the same track) hooks and none overstays it’s welcome, quite contrary, some could have been longer even as perfect as they are. Particularly the infectious “Fear Of The Moster” is flawless yet still feels a little short at under 3 minutes, while the favorite Maidenish “Out In The Weird” is just the right size at 6:26 with all the wonderful Into Eternity-ian (both Buried In Oblivion²⁰⁰⁴ and The Scattering Of Ashes²⁰⁰⁶) twists and turns, (all the more wonderful because I had initially misplaced it and realized it during evaluation after getting pretty good idea of how great Zenith²⁰²⁴ was, then downloaded the missing track and instantly hailed it as favorite.) Other highlights include the closing feel like late 80s/early 90s ballad “Echo”, which starts like Testament’s “Return To Serenity” and then evolves into a sort of Nevermore-ic “Heart Collector” with an ending worthy and reminiscent of The Eagles’ “Hotel California”, Pink Floyd’s “Numb” or Death’s “Perennial Quest”, possibly all three.

During research, I got a chuckle out of Andy Felton’s side project Prolapse A.D. with a single “Dump Trump”, with a cover of presumably one of the members face superimposed over the current Republican presidential frontrunner, a recent convicted felon and former U.S. President Donald Trump during one of his speech antics as featured on Encyclopedia Metallum, and, admittedly, that instantly warmed me up to Stormborn. But so did their versality and, being at the core a power metal band, their ability to morph into animals quite different from what’s expected of them, such as that Mercyful Fate-y and King Diamond-ian creep in the excellent “Death Incarnate”. Finally, the fact that the songs are both instant ear – pleasers yet get better there with multiple (5) applications is another reason to give Zenith²⁰²⁴ a near perfect score. I predict for Stormborn a career at least equal to Insomnium.

Leave a Reply