A True Metal Six-Pack from Stormspell Records
More Metal than Thou
Greetings and welcome once again to the CD Hunting Adventures of The Aging Metal Nerd. In my last entry I described my first-ever venture into the catalog of Stormspell Records - a tiny-but-true, California-based traditional Heavy Metal record label dedicated to keeping the old-school spirit of '80s metal alive. I've been enjoying my first five pickings from the label so much that I quickly went back to their CDBaby store and ordered another half dozen titles, doubling the number of Stormspell titles in my collection overnight! I always enjoy checking out new heavy metal bands (or at least, ones that are "new" to me) and this haul was no exception. I have been spinning this six-pack of True Metal on an endless loop for so many days now that my hands are in danger of becoming permanently frozen in the "devil horn" sign! Here's how the latest additions stack up:
Reign of Fury - U.K. Thrash Metal
The artwork that adorns the front of Reign of Fury's 2012 release World Detonation - a grinning skeleton dude with his finger on "the button," a mushroom cloud and a gaggle of terrified souls - hearkens back to such classic thrash album covers as Megadeth's Peace Sells...But Who's Buying?, Nuclear Assault's Game Over, and Toxik's World Circus, and the similarities don't end there.This U.K. combo has been together since 2006 and on World Domination they throw down an impressive barrage of good ol'fashioned pit-friendly violent fun ala Exodus and Overkill, as well as the aforementioned Deth and Nuke. In addition to their slam-worthy riff goodness, Reign of Fury tops off their mostly-clean vocals with an occasional death grunt to give things that modern thrash flavor, so these blokes should appeal not only to the old school mosh-it-up brigade but also to fans of current thrash revivalists like Municipal Waste and Skeletonwitch. Waltz it up, the pit is it! Reign of Fury released a follow up to this CD, Death Be Thy Shepherd, in 2015, which has already been added to my "want" list.
Reign of Fury - "Goodbye Mother Earth"
Forgotten Disciple - Obscure No More?
This band/album was so obscure that it didn't even have a listing on the record-collector tracking site RateYourMusic. (nor are there any tracks from it on YouTube, so you'll have to do without a video sample for this one, folks ...sorry!) Last Train to Heaven is part of Stormspell's "Red White and Heavy" CDs series which unearths and reissues long-lost metal material.
Forgotten Disciple was formed as plain ol' "Disciple" by members of numerous early '80s Bay Area cult metal combos like Rellik, Hellhound, and Tyton (all of whom I've heard of over the years, but I don't think I"ve ever actually heard any of them). According to the disc's liner notes, Disciple cut a four track EP and an additional four song demo in 1990 and '91 and played a grand total of one show before splitting up. The "Forgotten" was added to the band's name when Stormspell came into the picture, to avoid confusion with a long-running Christian nu-metal act also called "Disciple." The eight tracks on Last Train to Heaven are tried-n-true, meat & potatoes American metal anthems that should please fans of such old-school acts as Jag Panzer, Armored Saint, early Iron Maiden, Sacred Warrior, or vintage Queensryche.
Rocka Rollas - Swedish Speed Metal Throwbacks
I'd ordered this Swedish speed metal machine's most recent CD (Pagan Ritual) in my initial Stormspell purchase, which I enjoyed, so I wanted to hear more. Fortunately, Stormspell had just recently reissued Rocka Rollas' 2011 debut The War of Steel Has Begun with five bonus tracks, so that worked out nicely. The Rocka Rollas are a fully functioning band nowadays, but as I learned from skimming the liner notes to this CD, they were just a two-man (!) project when they created War of Steel..., consisting solely of instrumentalist Cederick Forsberg and a vocalist credited simply as "Josef." I was immediately entertained by the all out, over-the-top Metal-At-All-Costs attitude displayed on this CD.The cover art of a tank covered in spikes backed by a nuclear mushroom cloud is awesomely retro, and at least half of the song titles have the word "Metal" or "Steel" in them somewhere ("Metal the Posers to Death," "Metal of Steel," "More Metal Than Steel," "Heavy Metal Machine," etc.)! Musically the RR's are pure hyperactive speed metal ala early Helloween, Oz, Agent Steel (there's that "Steel" again!), or pretty much anything out of the classic Noise Records catalog. I already like this one better than Pagan Ritual and I definitely will be looking into more Rocka Rollas CDs soon!
Rocka Rollas - "Metal the Posers to Death"
Brothers of Sword - Brazilian Metal Barbarians
Yes, I know the band's name is ungrammatical as hell - shouldn't it be "Brothers of THE Sword?" - but I'll cut'em some slack as they hail from Brazil, a land whose metal scene has never been known for its mastery of the English language. Anywhoo, the "Brothers" are apparently some sort of supergroup/side project made up of musicians from a bunch of Brazilian metal bands (including Grey Wolf, Cruzadas, and Hazy Hamlet) none of whom were familiar to me. 2015's United For Metal is a solid slab of gritty, burly, sword swingin' "true metal" full of songs about brotherhood and steel and mythical creatures. The vocals are gruffer than anticipated (similar to Germany's Grave Digger); given their "epic" leanings I was expecting a cleaner/more operatic singer. A couple of songs are performed in the Brothers' native Portuguese, to which I can only shrug and say "oooookay." Now that Manowar have recently announced their Farewell Tour, these Brothers could fill the void left by the Men of Metal Might's retirement most admirably.
Brothers of Sword - "Berserkers"
Sacred Guardian - Traditional HM from Puerto Rico
Pop quiz: without Googling, take a wild guess what this Puerto Rican band sounds like. I'll give you a few hints. Their name is "Sacred Guardian," there's an armored knight fighting a fire breathing dragon on the cover, and the track list includes song titles like "Dark Ages," "Knights of the Moonlight," and "Ancient Prophecy." If you said, "I'll bet they play traditional heavy metal in the vein of Dio and Blind Guardian," you win a cookie. S.G.'s self titled debut (2012) is certainly not the most original thing to come down the pike but it's well produced and skillfully played melodic metal with a fair bit of crunch. Two tracks are sung in the band's native Spanish, which is kind of a bummer cuz I can't sing along, but otherwise, good show, fellas.
Sacred Guardian - "Sacred Guardian"
Steel Horse - '80s Metal Worship from Spain
2009's Wild Power comes to us from Steel Horse, a retro-minded Spanish metal combo who wanna party like it's 1979. This is cool, galloping, crunchy stuff inspired mainly by the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (ala early Maiden and first-album-era Def Leppard), with a healthy dose of mid period Judas Priest and maybe a hint of Krokus' commercial bent for good measure. Obviously Steel Horse are merely following in the footsteps of their heroes so Wild Power is far from innovative, but it's tightly played and catchy enough to appeal not just to headbangers, but to melodic rock fans as well. Sadly, the band is now apparently defunct (they split up after releasing a follow up to this album, In The Storm, in 2011), which sucks because they sounded like they were onto something really cool here. At least they have one more CD out there for me to track down!!
Steel Horse - "Wild Power"
Not a bad haul...
Obviously I'm quite happy with my latest batch of releases from Stormspell and I'm sure I'll be going back for more as soon as my wallet recovers from this latest hit (haha!)
In the very near future the label will be releasing a special "tribute" album to celebrate its 10th anniversary, which sounds intriguing. A Decade of Might and Magic will feature a number of bands from the Stormspell roster covering classic '80s underground metal tracks that have influenced them. The lineup includes the Rocka Rollas covering Blind Guardian's "Mirror Mirror," Held Under performing Crimson Glory's "Valhalla," Breitenhold covering Gamma Ray's "Last Before the Storm," and a "Mini King Diamond tribute" performed by Prince Emerald, who will cover five (!) of the King's most devilish cuts. Sounds like a blast, and one to keep an eye and ear out for!
Till my next CD scrounging update, Keep it Metal!