[Artwork by Ian Miller]
It’s a little difficult gleaning much information about black metal newcomers Stormkeep, as their online presence is fairly anonymous (is it too much to ask for a M-A page?), but some internet digging revealed a few details. First, they’re from Colorado, which has a rather thriving scene at the moment, and they seem to be entwined in said scene, as they (probably?) share a member (or two?) with folksy black metal act Wayfarer (and also possibly Blood Incantation?). They also made their live debut at the 2019 edition of the Fire in the Mountains fest out in Wyoming.
Most of the record’s 32-plus minutes, however, are spent delivering a colder but very epic form of black metal. The melodicism connects it to the best Swedish meloblack of the 90s (Dissection, Dawn, etc.), but Stormkeep has little of those band’s touches of thrash or death metal. Instead, their music prefers to sway, both in terms of the tempos themselves (sometimes even offering that touch of waltz) and in structure. Songs often shift between intensely blasting sections where tremolo melodies, while pretty, are rather unrelenting, and more open, broad spaces where melody can breathe and relax the listener. Sometimes Stormkeep relies a little too much on this technique over more calculated direction ‒ opener “Glass Caverns of Dragon Kings” doesn’t quite justify it’s 10-plus minute run time, for example ‒ but for the most part it’s an effective approach.
When pressed to show a higher potential, Stormkeep delivers. “Of Lore” deftly builds from a soft acoustic intro (with “flutes”) into a rather regal section of less aggressive black metal ‒ complete with “epic metal” clean vocals ‒ before getting back to the violent blasts and screeches. It still uses the contract/expand technique, but does so with the EP’s most interesting ingredients and most thought out structure. That it is the final black metal tune, and followed by the aforementioned dungeon synth outro, only helps to enhance the whole.
Galdrum is far from perfect ‒ in addition to the occasional issues in song efficiency, the production is thin and raw but not exactly effectively thin and raw ‒ but none of the minor flaws are deal breakers. The main thing going for Stormkeep is that their brand of black metal is just downright pleasant to hear, and successfully taps into the escapism that their medieval and ancient-minded themes suggest. Quite promising.