Stormtide - A Skalds Tale - (7/10)
Published on October 22, 2013
Stormtide is a symphonic folk metal act that was formed in Melbourne, Australia by guitarist Nic Woodhouse and keyboardist Reuben Stone in the early months of 2013. After recruiting several other band members, they released their debut EP, A Skalds Tale, in October of 2013, featuring five tracks of choppy metal with symphonic backdrops and folk melodies woven throughout its twenty-five minute playtime.
A Skalds Tale is chock full of folk melodies that sound like they were ripped straight out of English taverns circa the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries. These folk melodies are mixed with choppy guitar riffing, which utilizes mix of melodic death and traditional metal styled elements complete with galloping patterns and marching rhythms. Sure the guitars do pick up these folk melodies, but that’s mostly left to the keyboards. “Ale Sea” and “Conquer the Sails” feature the same type of folk melodies used by Alestorm and the like, but when you’re singing about the high seas and pirates and whatnot, it’s going to sound similar in some regards. “The Green Duck” and “Visions of Ragnarok” focus more on traditional sounding (read less piratical) folk rhythms, utilizing keyboard patches that sound like lutes and classical strings. The drums are mostly punkish double kick patterns with a few double bass bursts here and there. When the keys are belting out some type of folk ditties, they’re used to incorporate a wall of orchestral background music, hence the symphonic element to the band’s music. It provides for a lush and full listening experience, especially when paired with the choral vocals during “Conquer the Straits”.
While there are a lot of band starting to populate this niche of metal, Stormtide are doing a fair job of it. There are a few sections where the band completely fumbles, most notably the brief bass led segment with goofy clean vocals on “The Green Duck”. It’s odd, because the clean vocals there are marginally more stomachable during the band’s acoustic ballad, “A Skalds Tale”. The majority of the vocals on the album just rub me the wrong way; it’s almost like the singer can’t decide what he wants to do. The previously mentioned acoustic ballad shows a gruff yet clean vocal style that could pass for any college radio rock band, and while it’s decent, it doesn’t fit with the rest of the album. Some other sections show him going for a deep growling, death metal style, some parts show him trying to sound like an angry pirate and others he goes for more of a raspy scream. The eclectic vocal performance really brings down the album as a whole, as he’s not really stellar at any of the styles that he attempted.
The driving rhythms, folk melodies and symphonic backgrounds are well executed. With a better vocal performance, Stormtide could be one of the most promising unsigned folk metal acts that I’ve heard in some time. Apparently the band has already parted ways with the singer on this album, so that’s step one. Fans of Alestorm, Gloryhammer and Turisas should check this out. I’m excited to hear what the band can bring forth on their next offering.