June 19th, 2012
Release length: 50:10
Yes, Katana stick with the old-school Heavy Metal sound, but Storms of War drops the vital elements that made their previous album such a huge success. Gone is the sleek and stylish audio quality that fit the glamorous yet ballsy Metal tunes so well. Instead, the overall production is gritty and more like a raw recording from the eighties without being put through a noise filter. The guitars sound heavy and thick with a deep, vibrant bass performance that matches the louder volume of the aforementioned instruments. While they sound good, the drums sound wretched. The cymbals come as if only composed of a heavy static/white noise to them. This also appear on the guitars at times when they are obviously much louder in the mix. The snares have a thicker sound, but you can pick up on that interference with them as well. The bass kicks, however, sound good with a decent deeper thud. The vocals, as well as the guitars and bass, often feel lost in the noise and washed out cymbals, really being held back thanks to the production value. Unfortunately, Storms of War just sounds terrible, and when you factor in some of the vocal effects used on songs like “Reaper” and “In the Land of the Sun,” you’ll want to break the disc in half.
This all seems to really be based on the group’s change of musical direction. While some songs do harken back to their previous album, much of the release takes on more of an epic Manowar style. Some songs even seem to have a bit of a Queen vibe to them, largely in the vocals, such as during “Khubilai Kahn,” which clearly is used more to push the aforementioned over-the-top sound. Right from the start you will easily pick up on the change with the far more traditional eighties Metal sounding “Reaper.” The distortion on the vocals at the start sounds horrible and can easily scare any listener. The music here isn’t bad, but it’s nothing really that enjoyable outside the chorus, which packs a much more energetic approach. “Wrath of the Emerald Witch” is a welcome return to the band’s previous material though, and does hold a bit of a sleek sound to it amid the dirty, raw production. The vocals do try to push themselves too far in the chorus, but overall it’s a catchy song that will instantly hook the listener, though the audio does remove a bit of the kick that this song has, sadly. There’s also “The Samurai Returns,” another stylish, infectious, fast paced Heavy Metal experience similar to “Wrath of the Emerald Witch,” but a little more streamlined in comparison.
While those songs really stand out the most, there are other tracks here worth mentioning despite not really feeling that unique. “City On the Edge of Forever” doesn’t quite carry a sleeker element to it, but is still a good offering. The guitars distract the noise on the cymbals, as well as the powerful vocal performance in the chorus that helps to just make this song a lot louder overall. The foundation is composed largely of chugging chords that carry on until the end aside for some bridges that kick in with some melodic leads, as well as with the closing of the track. Much of that can also address “No Surrender,” except this one is handled a lot slower, and has more of a Viking style epic sense to it, especially with the harmonized chanting that kicks in right at the start. The closing song “The Wisdom of Edmonds Field” is pretty good as well, though it really takes from classic acts like Iron Maiden, evident right at the beginning with the cliche guitar introduction reminiscent of that band’s previous works. Unfortunately, this one sheds much of Katana‘s own original sound in favor of more chugging and some catchy hooks here and there. The more emotional slower passage does feel a bit more emotional in a slightly glamorous way, but it isn’t until after this part the song really picks up with catchy, faster material that really breathes a belated breath of air into the climax of the album.
Storms of War is far from the exciting, reinvigorating assault that Heads Will Roll was. Sure, it’s ok for a band to grow and change, but not when they drop the reason why they were so great in the first place in favor of traditional, generic Heavy Metal performances and foundations. While it’s not a bad album as far as the band’s output goes, there’s just nothing to really entice the listener aside a few unique songs among recycled, familiar material from the eighties. Tack on the horrible audio quality to the cymbals, snares, and some louder guitar chords, as well as the lower vocal level causing it to be drowned out much of the time, and you have a recipe for an album that is simply hard to listen to. If you’re an excited fan frothing at the mouth for a new release, prepare to be let down. With only a handful of songs that will have you banging your head along, you’ll definitely walk away with your heart in your stomach, and a tear in your eye, regardless of how manly a man, or butch of a woman you may claim to be.
01. Reaper – 3:38
02. Wrath of the Emerald Witch – 5:15
03. Khubilai Kahn – 6:36
04. The Samurai Returns – 4:03
05. City On the Edge of Forever – 3:05
06. No Surrender – 5:08
07. In the Land of the Sun – 8:05
08. The Gambit – 4:12
09. Modesty Blaise – 3:44
10. The Wisdom of Edmonds Field – 6:24
|Initial Pressing Score: 4/10
via Clawhammer PR.