Riders Of The Ancient Storm
Review by Vladimir on October 31, 2023.
When talking about Sweden’s metal scene, you can pick any subgenre of metal and you will definitely find plenty of great and successful bands out there, even in the realm of traditional heavy metal. One of the prominent figures and veterans of the Swedish heavy metal scene is the band Heavy Load, who have been around since 1976. The band’s debut album Full Speed At High Level was released all the way back in 1977 when heavy metal was still a fresh genre, but their next two albums Death Or Glory (1982) and Stronger Than Evil (1983) are considered classics among fans of oldschool heavy metal. The band had not recorded a new full-length album for a long time, and have since disbanded a couple of times, but have successfully reunited in 2017. After 40 years, the band has finally released their fourth full-length album Riders Of The Ancient Storm on October 6th, 2023 via No Remorse Records, which contains some songs from 1986 and 2023. The time has come to unfreeze the ancient rider and let the hot engines roll.
The album starts with the opening tune 'Ride the Night', a full-throttle heavy metal track with vocal and guitar melodies which tells you exactly that you’ll be hearing classic Heavy Load from the 80’s. The band goes all the way from the very start and from then on, they give it all they got, at times even showing that there is more to it than just good ol’ hot rocking and heavy metal. You’ll come across a few slow but incredibly catchy easy rider tunes like 'We Rock The World' and 'Angel Dark', which have some Black Sabbath-like vibes from the 70’s era. There are a couple of amazing tracks which is where the album really shines for me, that being 'Walhalla Warriors', 'Slave No More', 'Raven Is Calling' and 'Sail Away'. All four tracks bring down the fire and thunder with all their epic and glory, thanks to the wonderful addition of violins, keyboards and mesmerizing guitar solos. The album even ends on a high note with the bonus track 'Butterfly Whispering', which is a seven-minute acoustic instrumental with a beautiful composition that is heavily influenced by classical music and also serves as a great epilogue to this amazing joyride. The band’s journey certainly seems like it went far and wide with this album, especially since it contains tracks from different periods which feels a bit disconnected at first or like a weird compilation of old and new, but all can be overlooked once you get down to the general musical output which is at the forefront. The songwriting is indeed traditional 80’s heavy metal with a plethora of strong guitar riffs and amazing guitar solos, but you can definitely tell that apart from being primarily focused on the riffing and arrangements, the band even went as far to include other interesting bits like violins and the acoustic bonus track to further spice things up. The aforementioned four epic tracks are great examples at showcasing the band’s capability of incredible dynamic songwriting ideas and powerful artistic expression as heavy metal musicians, which is why I purposely dubbed these tracks as “The Big 4” or the “Four Riders of the Ancient Storm”. There isn’t much that I could say about the sound production other than the fact that it is very well done and I personally think that you can tell that Styrbjörn Wahlquist and Ragne Wahlquist provided a good treatment during the mixing and mastering of their unused tracks from the 80’s.
Even if Riders Of The Ancient Storm feels like a strange mish-mash at first, it is undoubtedly a very good album which proves that Heavy Load remained faithful to their musical roots and it is a blessing from the gods. Jim Ruthless, aka Ruthless Metal, had a good point saying that it feels like we’ve taken a time machine to 1983 since Heavy Load and Cirith Ungol released a new album this same year, and both albums really make the crazed heavy metal maniac feel very nostalgic, especially if you’re over 40 and even been around in the 80’s when both bands were in their prime youth. If you’re a fan of Heavy Load and Swedish heavy metal in general, but you still haven’t checked this one out, stop wasting your time and go give it a listen.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10