North Hammer – Stormcaller (2018) REVIEW

Edmonton, Canada’s very own North Hammer are confidently armed on their debut melodic death/folk metal full-length. The project is helmed entirely by multi-instrumentalist Andrew James and features session drums from Shotgunner drummer Doug Nunez. James’ work here evokes the peak moments of influence from Wintersun, Amon Amarth and post-‘Urkraft’ Thyrfing. ‘Stormcaller’ doesn’t so much expand upon it’s influences but instead shapes into an album well worthy of sitting next to them on the same shelf. Folk/melodic death metal fans will find familiar melodic grandeur and pomp-flung melodeath interest in this album alike, though the keyboard work is less prominent than you might expect upon sampling the first couple tracks.

Where ‘Stormcaller’ lands in the folk metal food chain is pretty comparable to Heathen Foray‘s ‘Inner Force’ from a few years back but the overall approach is more focused and similar to what Månegarm achieved with ‘Vargstenen’. Polished and epic sounding melodic death metal guitars, folk melodies and some occasional keyboard driven songs that remind me of Ensiferum‘s underrated ‘Unsung Heroes’ album. The style of ‘Stormcaller’ certainly fits in with the last few decades of folk metal across a range of variations, but it doesn’t stand out based on sound and style. The gravity of North Hammer’s musical personality comes from memorable melodic ideas that come in bursts.

“Written in the Stars” does everything it can to be remembered and the guitar and keyboard work is entirely successful, probably my favorite song overall. The viking/melodic black spirit of “Tip of the Spear” shows careful study of Amon Amarth‘s inherent epic metal qualities while shedding away much of that band’s dull oversimplification of viking themed death metal. “Spellbinder” largely highlights the end tail of ‘Stormcaller’ as the arrangements begin to rely too heavily on melodic death metal guitar work; the track features riffing that recalls the more exciting moments from Thyrfing‘s ‘Vansinnesvisor’ and warms up the otherwise forgettable final tracks.

For a studio-only project spearheaded by one person ‘Stormcaller’ is an effective and thoughtfully arranged folk metal album that ultimately leans hard into melodic death metal tropes towards it’s endpoint. Taking taste into account, this isn’t such a problem at all and any melodic death/folk metal hybrid lover will be ecstatic to give it a spin. At the very least give “Written in the Stars” a listen and gauge your interest accordingly.

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Artist North Hammer
Type Album
Released March 16, 2018
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp! Follow North Hammer on Facebook
Genres
Viking Metal, Melodic Death Metal

Staring into the night sky. 3.5/5.0

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