Stormlord have always stuck out as a sort of sore thumb in the Italian metal scene, delightful but often painful to suck on. Their sound incorporates black, death, gothic and epic power metal, but efficiently enough that you'd never notice. Terms like 'epic blackened metal' and 'black power metal' are often bandied about to describe this but really, who cares, because this is yet another group of guys who have upped their ante in 2008 to produce the greatest work of their career.
For some reason I always passed on their previous albums, but I've enjoyed Mare Nostrum so much that I've gone back to their earlier work and found that some of it is pretty good. Just not at this level. This is a beautiful album, seamlessly integrating elements like symphonic keyboards and folksy guitars with epic, thrashing guitars and blast beats. The title track is a great entrance to the album, but "Neon Karma" is simply stunning, one of my favorite individual tunes this year. Extremely catchy melodies and riffs grace the verse and chorus, and then there is this amazing bridge with gothic vocals which remind me of Dan Swano clean vox, extremely memorable. I must have pressed repeat a dozen or so times when I first came across this track. So good. I even love some of the lyrics.
Staring at the clouds where laser angels fly
Future looks so bright
Gaze into a moon whose circuits light the night
Gleaming through the rain
We celebrate our end
After this, the rest of the album almost pales, despite the fact it is still high quality. "Legacy of the Snake" has a cool Middle Eastern black metal vibe to it. "The Castaway" has great acoustic features to it and sweeping clean vocals. "And the Wind Shall Scream My Name" is a glorious track, and the album closes with the epic namesake track "Stormlord".
The mix is top notch, you can hear everything quite well. The snarls and growls of Cristiano Borchi are reminiscent mildly of Dani Filth, but they sound great here, as do the clean vocals courtesy of guitarist/synth player Giampaolo Caprino. The more I listen, the more I love this, and give it a huge recommendation to fans of epic genre-bending metal, from the folkish side to the symphonic black metal. Really, you need to hear this, an Italian masterpiece.
Verdict: Epic Win [9/10] (come witness our triumph)