Whenever dark clouds crowd in on thoughts and emotions there is always a place for an understanding soundtrack, something Cyprus-based atmospheric black metallers Stormcast offer with their impressive debut album, Frame of Mind. The release is a tempest of oppressive intenisty and emotionally ravenous shadows but brought on an epic wave of melodic and atmospheric invention. An increasingly compelling fusion of black and symphonic metal with additional flames of melodic death and gothic expression, the release is a startling and intensive introduction to the Nicosia quintet.
Formed in 2007, Stormcast take their lyrical and atmospheric inspirations from the personal struggles of man and society’s ills. A couple of promos in 2009 and 2012 respectively, opened up a certain amount of attention but it is with the Pitch Black Records Frame of Mind that it is easy to suspect Stormcast will stepping into the widest gaze. The band’s live presence which has seen them play the likes of the MetalDays Festival and share stages with bands such as Rotting Christ, Sabaton, Stratovarius, and Nightstalker, sparked real anticipation for Stormcast’s debut full-length and from being a relative secret expect the band’s name, because of the new release, to be on the broadest expanse of lips as it infests ears and psyche.
The Executioner opens up the physical and mental examination, emerging from a spatial ambience with vocal drones, scything drama clad riffs, and orchestral grandeur. It is a portentous dawning soon realised by the crushing heavy booted feet of rhythms and a ravenous sonic enterprise from the guitars and keys. The song soon settles in to a smaller and more intensive pressure of hungry riffs and combative beats, both carrying the vocal animus of Mike Angastiniotis. His voice is a venomous squall, clinging to ears with every rasping syllable whilst around him the song ebbs and flows with intimate hostility and expansive melodic temptation. It is an instant attention grabber of a track, an inescapable provocateur with nostrils flared and creative wiles in full flow. The golden blaze of horns which lord over the song’s finale make a striking contrast to the pestilential vocals and savage riffery, a moment and conflicting union which in many ways really epitomises the whole of the album.
The potent start is swiftly matched by the dark depths and majesty of Wishful Bliss, its opening elegance soon a predatory stalking of the senses but still wearing a mesmeric cloak of keys from Mark McDonald and sonic intrigue from the guitar of George Masouras backed by that of Angastiniotis as his vocals spill further malevolence into the mix. Elements of the track, as across the album, bring thoughts of bands like Dark Tranquillity and The Pete Flesh Deathtrip but only as spice to something distinct to Stormcast, something again shown by New World Order. The track backs up the might of the first two songs with consummate and uncompromising ease. Keys and guitar offer an immediate inviting drama, before passing the fire to a torrent of niggling riffs and intensive swipes from drummer Andrew Laghos, both courted by a prowling and magnetic bassline from Andreas Spyrou and the return of the roaring horns. Whereas the previous track was a maelstrom of dark emotions and riveting enterprise, keys and guitars weaving radiant melodic colour across a brutal rhythmic and riff painted canvas, the third track strides a brighter terrain of still imposing incitement and intensity. Hooks and grooves light up its landscape with enthralling imagination and expressive hues, whilst the bass of Spyrou makes for a carnivorous accomplice to the raw throated narrative of Angastiniotis.
There is also a background hint of clean vocals to the song which are given greater rein in Of Flesh and Stone, an evocative track looking at soldiers at war and families left behind. From a sample of a wife talking, a captivating croon brings the song into potent view. Presumably it is again Angastiniotis singing and it has to be said he is a gripping element with his clean tones swiftly sparking a wish that the band employed this side of his skills even more across the album. He is soon spraying his regular caustic tones though, spite and rage impregnating the turbulent but beauteous tapestry of the epic encounter.
The pair of Withdrawn and In Entropy stirs up air and emotions next with their own individual designs and torment. The first is cored by another addictive bassline around which riffs and beats create a smaller but predacious confrontation, the track almost punkish in its hooks and spiteful riffing. It eventually drifts into a melodic pasture which simply bewitches even as first Angastiniotis and subsequently crippling rhythms add their dark offerings to the outstanding aggressor. Its successor is a radiant wind of sonic and melodic adventure contradicted by the bullish tenacity and contagious strength of rhythms and riffs. Light and dark in a riveting conflict for the listener to immediately immerse in, the song as its predecessor sets another plateau for the increasingly thrilling album.
An opening tangy lure from the guitar sets Immune off in fine and exciting style, that initial tempting continuing to coax ears and imagination as around it the song‘s atmosphere darkens and its climate becomes more imposing. The track never goes into the brutal rage it hints at though, keys providing a poetic elegance as the guitars flame with sonic adventure and the song with a creative revelry. Only Angastiniotis’ scarring tones resist the light, his words a great blackened toxin to the engaging landscape before final track Dysthymia takes over to bring Frame Of Mind to a satisfying close. It again reveals the depth and invention in the songwriting and sound of Stormcast, a blend of smoggy rabidity, unpredictable mouth-watering twists, and emotive melodic endeavour gripping ears and imagination for a potent finale.
It did not take Frame Of Mind long to impress but it is with further plays that its true weight of creativity and grandeur shows itself. With only a wish for a little more diversity in delivery from Angastiniotis a minor thought, Stormcast has pushed themselves towards the strongest spotlight with the album, a must investigation for all extreme melodic metal fans.
Frame of Mind is available via Pitch Black Records now @ http://store.pitchblackrecords.com/STORMCAST-Frame-of-Mind.html#.VIgbA3vzDox
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