Even though my drive for metal – particularly new metal – has been on a significant wane, an ember still burns. It’s become more selective, and when I hear something that registers it can still pull me into that space where I am transported. Black metal has always held place for me; after all, it was the musical language that I used as the foundation of what would grow into whatever Necrolytic Goat Converter is. Over the years I’ve become more picky as to what I listen to within the genre, and it’s heartening to hear a band like Stormkeep keeping the old school flame alive without actually…you know, burning churches or spewing hate. I missed the boat on grabbing their debut Galdrum on vinyl but nabbed a CD because hey: support the bands you love, right?
Stormkeep boats a serious pedigree with members from Blood Incantation and Wayfarer, who also released a killer album in 2020 with their western tinged opus A Romance With Violence. But the music found on Galdrum doesn’t feel like a blend of the bands; rather, it’s a interpretation of the kind of black metal that inspired them, albeit with a crushing clear production and intricate melodies woven into the icy brutality.
At only 4 tracks and a brisk 32 minutes, Galdrum gets in, does what it needs to, and gets out. Opener “Glass Caverns of Dragon Kings” boils over with majestic tremolo guitars and blast beats that refuse to relent over the course of its 10 minute runtime. There’s a brief acoustic interlude in the middle that serves to remind you of what just transpired and what’s surely to come. There are small hints of neo-folks and even some dungeon synth at play but the overriding theme is blistering cold black metal. “Lightning Frost” and “Of Lore…” follow in much the same vein, while closer “Lost in Mystic woods & Cursed Hollows” hews closer to dungeon synth, albeit a bit more expansive and regal than I’ve heard in my (admittedly limited) experience.
There’s a theatricality at play, both in the music and in the band photos: all spiked gauntlets and swords. It definitely brings me back to being obsessed with fantasy as a kid and thinking this was the coolest stuff in the world, and how that childhood memory merges with the more recent feelings of discovering black metal as a means of my own self expression put Stormkeep firmly in the halls of memorable, catchy, and repeatable.
I dig it, and make no apologies for it.