Stormlord - Mare Nostrum (2008)

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Artist: Stormlord
Album: Mare Nostrum
Year: 2008
Genre: Epic Black Metal
Country: Italia
Format: mp3 VBR
Size: 90 МB.

With the first martial drumbeats and solemn horns of the opening title track, it seems as if Italian melodic black metal act Stormlord have taken this, their fourth album, back to the epic battle-hymns of their early work. And indeed they have, as the song crests into a seagoing epic worthy of Moonsorrow. Rousing melodies are pitted against blasting passages and evoke a stormy journey of crashing waves and thundercracked skies. By the time the track slows to a soaring elegy of angelic choirs, it’s clear that Stormlord has developed a tighter sense of composition and flow than we’ve heard to date from them. Mare Nostrum is off on a triumphant note.

I expected the seafaring theme to continue with “Neon Karma”, but instead we get a digression into modern-sounding melodeath, complete with electronic touches and shouted gang-vocals that recall both Soilwork and Children of Bodom. (There’s even a section of clean vocals that sounds surprisingly like Dan Swano, but it’s not him.) It’s a fine track, if not somewhat familiar, but it seems to be out of place given what’s to come next.

On “Legacy of the Snake”, Stormlord returns to more atmospheric, evocative work, as if the battleship of Mare Nostrum (’Our Sea’, from ancient Roman times) is heading east towards foreign waters. A sitar and strings combo announces the band’s arrival on the mysterious Eastern shores of the Mediterranean, and it’s here that they stay for the core of the album. The Eastern thing has started to become a little tired of late (fine when Nile and Melechesh were doing it, a bit cliché by the time Behemoth and Belphegor jumped on), but Stormlord makes it sound invigorating once again. Each track whips into a screaming black metal sandstorm set against dancing sitars, majestic female choirs and romantic, sweeping orchestration. Let’s put it this way - it’s the best Therion album I’ve heard in years.

Actually, if I had to make a strong band comparison here, Stormlord has become the black metal Bizzarro World version of Symphony X - specifically their resplendent V: The Grand Design. Mare Nostrum offers a similar blend of gorgeous melodies and urgent momentum, but all done with screaming fury rather than soaring clean vocals or power-metal bravado.

When we begin “And the Wind Shall Scream My Name,” the fiercer, Viking-ish (though not specifically Viking) cues have returned, signaling the ship’s voyage away from the desert kingdoms. “Neon Karma” aside, it’s a complete journey, and concept album or not, it’s a treatment I don’t think I’ve seen before. (Perhaps on the next album they’ll steer the warship towards another culture to clash against - Asia, perhaps, or darkest Africa. You could run with this concept for awhile.) Best of all, there’s not a bad song on here. Of course, it all depends on your taste for heavily symphonic, melodic black metal, but nothing here set off my cheese-o-meter and I found the entire experience to be well-executed and captivating.

If your definition of black metal is wide enough to include Bal Sagoth, Dimmu Borgir and Anorexia Nervosa as well as Walknut, Krohm and Gorgoroth, you’d do well to check out Mare Nostrum. One of my favorite releases of the year so far.


Written by Gabaghoul
May 27th, 2008

Tracklist:
1. Mare Nostrum (6:47)
2. Neon Karma (3:56)
3. Legacy of the Snake (5:14)
4. Emet (5:26)
5. The Castaway (5:04)
6. Scorn (4:19)
7. And the Wind Shall Scream My Name (4:43)
8. Dimension Hate (4:49)
9. Stormlord (6:32)

Total Time - 46:50

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