Part of me wants to write this reviewe with all these little ‘e’s at the end of every worde, but let’s not do that, shall we? However, it’s a good enough way to re-introduce Stormwarrior, whose long-awaited and oft-delayed fourth release is set to see daylight on May 27th. Now, power metal-enthusiasts will remember Stormwarrior being a thinly veiled Helloween-clone on their first two albums, with lyrical content that could be summarized as ‘Manowar with Vikings’. The band's third milestone “Heading Northe” saw them moving a bit more towards a distinctive sound, however, with an epic track like “The Revenge of Asa Lande” being pretty far from their usual cheesy territory.
Displaying once again a knack for immensely uninspired album titles, Stormwarrior returns with “Heathen Warrior”, an album that sees them further explore the new ground uncovered on “Heading Northe”. Freaks of double bass-speed and crazy melodies need not despair; this isn’t that much of a change, but the overall feeling of this record is that it tries to be more subtle and mature, instead of hitting you in the face with a blunt axe. Of course you won’t notice that on the first track, which doesn’t set the room ablaze like previous opening salvos, but is a decent enough, if a little bit overly familiar, fast-paced power metal track. By the end of it you will never forget what this one is called.
Things get a little bit more moody with the strangely laid-back “The Ride Of Asgard”, which has a beautiful build-up throughout the verse, flowing naturally into a slightly undercooked but fitting chorus. A peculiar little song, and one that grows with consecutive listens. It also rings in what will be a recurring motive for the entire album: if you expect to be blown away with fierce battle hymns, you’re in for a letdown, as these songs don’t make an everlasting impression on the first go, but take some time to attach themselves to your skull. It’s the kind of subtlety you don’t expect from Stormwarrior, which leads me to my main concern with this album.
There isn’t an universal law declaring that bands should try to evolve, and both stagnation and progression have their merits. Yet at this point you feel that Stormwarrior have attempted to split themselves in two, and on the one hand continue to make easy-listening and catchy power metal, while on the other they explore their talents and maybe transform into something bigger. Instead we get this: a band that restrains itself from diverting too far from its roots, but partly tries to break away from it. Which is the reason why some of the songs on here fall in between, and have something but not much to offer one way or the other. I’m talking about “Bloode To Bloode”, “The Returne” and “Ravenhearte”, which don’t quite take off in either direction and just sit there.
Still, there’s a lot to enjoy here. Be it more traditional work like the aforementioned title track or the fantastically Running Wild-ish “Fyre & Ice” (it even borrows one of their song titles), and of course there’s the more innovative stuff, with “The Ride Of Asgard”, “Wolven Nights” and “The Valkyries Call” offering the album’s most complete and chilling atmospheres. On top of that, every song features some exceptionally tasty bass-lines (courtesy of Iron Savior’s Yenz Leonhardt, who has one of the most bitching last names ever).
Time will tell if this a transitional album for Stormwarrior, and whether or not they have the guts or abilities to move forward or merely remain where they are. For now, we’re left with “Heathen Warrior”, which is appropriately up to the task of keeping the fans busy until then.
Arno Callens' rating: 3.75 out of 5
(not the track I would have chosen to include, but it's the only YouTube-clip I was able to find)