Stormruler – Under The Burning Eclipse (Album Review)

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Blackened flames scorch the sky.

The U.S. black metal scene has long been the Rodney Dangerfield of its adopted sub-genre; it gets virtually no respect from their European forbearers. It was frequently noted in interviews among various figures within the Scandinavian guard that America seemed a bit behind the curve and often imitating what was commonplace years earlier in Norway, whereas now it isn’t unheard of for some of the old guard to note that certain trailblazers out of the Pacific Northwest represented by such post-rock and atmospheric-tinged innovators such as Agalloch and Wolves In The Throne Room have veered a bit too far from the style’s primordial roots. But perhaps the states have found that long sought after sweet spot between originality and traditionalism that has allegedly eluded in a number of recent projects, one being the newly formed two-piece project Stormruler, which brings a fairly unique formula to the table on their debut LP “Under The Burning Eclipse.

Comprised of drummer Jesse Schobel, perhaps best known for his work with St. Louis-based death metal outfit Cast The Stone, and frequent blackened thrash purveyor and guitarist/vocalist Jason Asberry, this is a fold defined by ambitious songwriting a fairly pronounced affinity for the Swedish approach to things. Though of a fairly crackling and frost-covered character from a production angle, this album carries a blend of melancholy melodic elements and elaborate execution that rests fairly comfortably between the seminal works of Dissection and the somewhat more technically charged material long featured by Necrophobic. Then again, the vocal presentation has a bit more of a higher pitched, sepulchral brand of garbled shrieks that more closely align with the classic character of Emperor’s own Ihsahn, while there is also a curious fixation with ambient keyboard music spliced throughout the entire listen, occasionally coming off as quasi-symphonic, but largely of a minimalist character somewhat comparable to Burzum.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of this presentation isn’t so much the bells and whistles of each individual song, but more so in how the entire listening experience is organized. Despite being comprised of nearly 20 individual songs, only nine of them function as proper black metal anthems; while the rest consist of shorter intros and segues that connect them together like transitional instrumentals between two scenes within a live theatric experience. The range of expression is fairly diverse, as frenetic blasts of wintry coldness such as “Reign Of The Winged Duke”, “Age Of Steel And Blood” and “Of Hollowed Souls And Distant Flames” channel the extreme speed and aggression, while more developed epics such as “Blood Of The Old Wolf” and the 8 minute title anthem draw things out a bit more and explore more atmospheric and slower paced territory, conjuring up occasional comparisons to Immortal. This also spills into the shorter ambient passages, as mysterious and haunting meditations like “The March Onto Golden Lands” and “Culling Of The Blood Moon” contrast with more melancholy and orchestral asides like “Journey To The Unknown” and “An Empire Of Ash And Dust”.

From start to finish, this is about as epic and elaborate of an album put forth in the traditional black metal style that has come out of the continental U.S. in recent years, and that’s proves to be its lone Persian Flaw. “Under The Burning Eclipse” is a fairly sizable commitment for any fan of the style given its comparatively long length compared to the albums that directly influenced it, which when combined with the continual segues into brief ambient respites, makes for a fairly unorthodox album structure by the standards of a most Swedish influenced black metal album with melodic death metal flourishes. Perhaps the most apt comparison would be to Thulcandra’s third opus “Ascension Lost,” but even in that case the instrumental ambient segues were used a bit more sparingly. Song for song it’s a highly competent offering that is only dogged by some slight pacing issues, but this shouldn’t dissuade fans of such seminal albums as “Storm Of The Light’s Bane,” “Ancient God Of Evil” and “The Nocturnal Silence” from checking this out.

Released By: Napalm Records
Released On: May 28th, 2021
Genre: Black Metal

Musicians:

  • J. Schobel / Drums, Vocals
  • Jason Asberry / Vocals, Guitarss

“Under The Burning Eclipse” Tracklist:

  1. Shine of Ivory Horns
  2. Reign of the Winged Duke
  3. The March Onto Golden Lands
  4. Age of Steel & Blood
  5. Culling of the Blood Moon
  6. Blood of the Old Wolf
  7. Journey to the Unknown
  8. Under the Burning Eclipse
  9. Prithee, Chosen
  10. Of Hollowed Souls & Distant Flame
  11.  An Empire of Ash & Dust
  12.  At the Cliffs of Azure City
  13. Illuminating the Ancient Sky
  14.  Dawn of the Eternal Fire
  15. A Message From a Foreign King
  16. Mark of the Valkyrie
  17. Blood Ritual
  18. Fear the Old Blood
  19.  Fields of Mortal Shame

8.0 Great

Two up-and-comers from the Midwestern U.S. join forces to unleash a highly ambitious slab of epic black metal goodness, drawing from the grim and frostbitten sounds of the 90s Swedish scene with a side order of haunting ambient darkness.

  • Songwriting 8
  • Musicianship 8
  • Originality 8
  • Production 8
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