When it comes to listening to a new album, especially from a band that I know little to nothing about, I approach it with the anticipation and excitement of a kid that’s just woken up on Christmas morning. So when the opportunity to review a North Hammers album ‘Stormcaller’ was presented I was undeniably excited.
Having not previously heard of Andrew James’ solo project I went into ‘Stormcaller’ with quite an open mind only knowing the general direction of what he was about. Being a long time fan of both folk music and folk metal I was slightly apprehensive about the content as the genre is almost saturated with some absolutely mind blowing acts. However I soon had all my fears allayed as North Hammer quite quickly showed that they know exactly what they are doing.
Diving straight into Stormcallers opening track Avatar you are greeted with a brief calm before the immense storm that jumps directly at you and takes you right into the albums world with soaring guitar work and impressive vocals, a world I was more than happy to lose myself in for the 37 odd minutes that ‘Stormcaller’ runs for. What I immediately noticed was the pure quality of both the musicianship and production, I had a general idea of what I was in for but in all honesty I was not expecting such impeccable audio quality.
Moving forward through the album I found a consistent theme both lyrically and musically, a rich and engaging story of war and glory, a concept that is presented in a clever and clear manner that reflects the obvious skill behind the song writing and composition. You will find that there is never a moment that deviates from the folk styling, its consistent but doesn’t fall into the trap of being monotonous or same-y across the 10 track duration. Spanning the 37 minute run time you find a slew of musical variety between the fast, hard riffing and slower more reflective moments. Inclusion of the slightly more relaxed instrumental track Black Forest Rain brings a moment of reflection on an album filled to the brim with expansive riffs and blast beats, an inclusion i was extremely happy to find.
Deciding on a track that really stuck in my mind was no mean feat, however the self titled track North Hammer did have me coming back for more over and over again as I’ve been writing this review. Something about both the engaging lyrics and subject material paired with an infectious melody just kept pulling my attention back time after time. If this is the level of music North Hammer are capable of then I have high hopes for their future records.
One part of an album that’s always been crucial to me is the last song. Albums such as Insomnium’s ‘Winters Gate’, Woods Of Ypres’ ‘Album 5’ or Ne Obliviscaris’ ‘Citadel’ for example have always stayed embedded in my memory for their closing tracks and in particular their closing lines. For me its not dissimilar to the closing lines of a good book, a farewell if you will, from a world that you have been able to explore for but a short time. ‘Stormcaller’ concludes its 10 track with Lions Winter, a final, brutal celebration of the glory of the battlefield. A definitive and strong ending track that brings though rock solid riffs and an intensity consistent with the rest of the album. The final bars fading out did leave me wanting a bit more, perhaps a bit more of an outro, just to extend the experience and finish with one final flair of guitar work. But overall as a finisher it was extremely enjoyable and a satisfying experience.
Overall North Hammer delivers an experience which although it doesn’t really break any huge boundaries, delivers an innovative devastating 37 minutes of fury that is both memorable and extremely enjoyable.