I have heard good things about Stormzone but I will let my ears be the judge of their 4th studio album, "Three Kings". The band hail from Northern Ireland and have been about since 2006 when they were formed by ex Sweet Savage members, vocalist John Harbinson and drummer Davy Bates. Since then, they have supported the likes of White Lion, Cinderella, Y & T and LA Guns.
'The pain inside' starts proceedings militarily, literally. Drum rolls, rousing anthemic melody, Churchill speech on top if you were in doubt about the meaning behind the song. Of course a certain well known band has utilised old Winstone's speech before but this is done with so much more feeling to it, more pathos. The intro being a fraction under 2 minutes is almost a song in itself and contrary to some, you don't sit there waiting impatiently for the music to kick into gear. But kick it does, vocalist John Harv' Harbinson's voice is the first ingredient that makes an impact. He has a fine set of lungs and importantly for this kind of sound, a decent range. On his higher registers, the tone is a little reminiscent of Michael Kiske from his early Helloween days.
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The band are keen to mention their NWOBHM influences and roots in the bio and it is easy to see why. But what they have done rather than just cloning a sound that, let's face it, is more than 30 years old, is update it and drag it by the short and curlies to the 21st century.
'Spectre' is up next, thumping bass and drums, simple but effective riffs and piercing vocals. A good track: in your face Rock done well, screaming, meandering guitars with more scales than a fish convention.
'Stoneheart' explodes with a huge heavy riff banging out of your speakers. A gorgeous bass line rumbles through the song. It almost delves into the thrash arena before coming back to a melodic chorus very rememberable.
There is a different feel altogether with the start 'Alive', the bass on its own sounds a little Faith No More in its deliverance. As it speeds up, there are some well thought out progressions, the vovals sounding even more Helloweenish especially during the middle section. A well crafted song.
'Night of the storm' has more of a classic rock feel to it. Stuttering guitars provide the perfect backdrop to the vocals on this one. Its melodic chorus has an almost orchestral quality. Another good and well written song.
'Beware in time' is the obligatory ballad (may even be a legal requirement now). It is done well though, sung with feeling although with the odd lyrical cliché, but hey, what ballad doesn't throw a few of those in. It works well to break up the album and in the old days of vinyl would have been sat snugly at the end of side 1.
So to side 2, or the seventh song in this case, the title track 'Three kings'. Upping the tempo, this is definitely no ballad. A good old rocker, and another cracking melody. Melodic chorus is something this lot do well, melodic but never losing the hard edge.
Miltary, marching rhythmic drumming starts 'The pass loning', rising and bringing in the rest of the track. But the rhythm is carried through the whole song, adding depth with the guitars following it, almost threatening to outdo the drums but never quite overtaking them. A nice break in the middle forcing the tempo of the song before it goes back down again, drums still beating a march, guitars this time coming in their own. A good multi faceted song.
'I am the one' is another in your face rocker, to my ears at any rate bringing back memories of breaker era Accept. 'Wallbreaker' is in the same vein, although threatening to get even heavier. Classic NWOBHM style riffs run throughout the song, especially effective during the guitar solo. And DJ's beware, there is an extra half bar thrown in just when you think it has finished...the little scamps.
'Never trust' starts off with some emotional guitar, guiding you to a ballad experience until...it kicks in full force, a good surprise. Not that there is anything wrong with ballads, but going in a direction you weren't expecting is, to my mind, one of the songwriting arts that is under utilised – maybe there just aren't enough writers that understand its relevance. Then even more suddenly, for the last 30 seconds of the track, it shifts back down. An interesting track and one that works.
'B.Y.H' is next up. As the beginning of the song says, it stands for "Bang your head" and they inform us they "like to play it loud". So as you would expect, a gentle piano composition. Errr no, that was just a gullibility test. More straight up rock, one of those anthemic compositions the rock public love so it is always good business to tap into that sentiment. It never slows done, this one – no tempo shifts or clever progressions as on most of the other songs on the album, but this is about rock and disturbing your parents and it would never do to let them think you can be mellow.
So to the album closer 'Out Of Eden" and my personal favourite, there is so much going for it. In a way it's the antagonistic half brother of the previous song. Far from simple and up front this one is multi-layered, 3 songs in one almost, but in these days of belt tightening a bargain has to be a good thing. Starting off subtly before firing up, the tone and mood change more than once without ever slowing down rhythmically. More than anything else, 'Out Of Eden' works almost as band CV, showing what they are capable of – there is literally that much in this one.
Stormzone definitely have the tools to succeed. Overall the album is a good one, well written and crafted songs, well produced although I am not overly enamoured by the drum sound, but that is a taste issue. Personally I felt it was a shame I had to wait until the last track to hear their full repertoire, but of course it does leave you with good memories of the album. The good news is that there is something for everyone on this album.
The band are all capable musicians, more than capable, and their use of melody, tempo shifts and bridges especially are very impressive. Best of all every one of their songs is suited perfectly to the live arena. Talking of which, go and check them out live.