Andrew James’ one-man project from Edmonton, North Hammer enters the heavy metal fray with the crushing debut "Stormcaller." Especially for a first release, this album is intense, heavy and filled with high quality Ensiferum worship riffage. But North Hammer is not just a clone or a tribute, the sound of the band is clearly defined within the first few tracks and continues to develop and surprise throughout the album.
"Stormcaller" seamlessly alternates between frantic extreme metal sections and anthemic galloping ones, largely due to creative drumming. In the true epic fashion there are also several breaks for choral vocals and melody introductions, but nothing sounds derivative or forced. This is a fine line to walk, and it deserves respect: simultaneously paying homage to titans of a genre while innovating on the sound is no easy feat.
There are few slow parts on this record, the riffs just keep coming. Even the acoustic interlude is a little swingy and uptempo. Face melting lead work is dispersed generously through the tracks but never in a flashy way, each solo seems like it belongs and wasn’t shoehorned in during songwriting. There is a lot here to love, with one major caveat - the vocals consist of mostly higher pitched growls which is often a controversial matter of personal taste.
All of the musicianship on "Stormcaller" is unquestionable. This album could be a sleeper hit for 2018, entirely hinging on how the album is received by the fans of the bands it emulates. It’s likely that many will be hooked just a few seconds into the first track, enjoy the ride all the way through and be left wanting more. For the first album of a solo project, that’s impressive.
3. Written in the Stars
4. Magic Mead
5. Tip of the Spear
6. A Soldier's Song
7. Black Forest Rain
9. North Hammer
10. Lion's Winter