Stormruler’s stunning debut was clearly influenced by the duo playing a ton of video games during the creation and recording of their debut, Under the Burning Eclipse. Whether it’s the fact that their name is taken from a famous weapon in Dark Souls, the myriad little game references strewn about the 19-track record, or even just the way the whole album plays out, so much of what makes this record tick takes hints and influence from video games. Any record with ten interludes would normally feel like stat (or runtime) padding, but remembering that love of gaming, these interludes feel essential to the album’s experience and enjoyment.
Indeed, imagine the interludes as the moments in between boss battles, quietly and pensively patrolling a metroidvania level of massive size and scope (though likely dimly lit) in search of your next fight. Hell, these interludes even sound distinct yet connected to the nine actual full-fledged songs, acting like bridges between epic boss battles. Thankfully, the St. Louis group know how to conjure up unholy pixelated battle imagery as well as any, as those nine songs are a triumphant batch of throwback extreme metal. Stormruler’s style of choice is a very war-like brand of melodic black metal, as influenced by Blind Guardian as they are Allegiance or Dawn.
Now here’s where I throw a caveat that gets at why Stormruler are so special. I suck at video games. I love video games. The heart of the contradiction there is that, unlike what gamers will scream at any n00bs on the internet, I cannot “git gud.” I have two disabilities that render my 3-D vision poor and my manual dexterity even worse. However, figuring out the puzzles and tricks to complete a mission and claim victory at the end is an aspiration even the least among us – like me – can appreciate. Pushing through the punishing, conquering the seemingly unconquerable, it’s a wonderful feeling that is why so many of us continue even after hundreds of deaths (note: I do not have time for hundreds of deaths…).
I have never played any of the Dark Souls or similarly styled games due to their notorious difficulty and monochrome color schemes, but the feelings of grinding and accomplishment in the series get at why Stormruler are so damn great. Their black metal harkens back to the second wave classics while injection a real battle-like intensity and power into the proceedings. Taking a clear influence from video games, the struggles of war, and the power of history, the band are masters at conveying my feelings above – and also at truly stirring black metal.
Just take a listen to the title track to appreciate how much bloody fun Stormruler are clearly having in making this music. Too often, black metal bands take themselves so seriously and refuse to acknowledge how fun metal is. That ain’t a problem here, folks.
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