Release: Storms of War
Release Date: 2012
Genre: Traditional Metal
Label: Listenable Records
Sweden – Known to be the home of acts such as Arch Enemy, In Flames, Bathory and Abba. The last of which is probably the most known musical export from the Scandinavian nation. Yet Sweden is also home to the metal quintet that is Katana. The band have been described as being in the same vein as the early days of the NWOBHM era. Having only heard of them recently, in my dark corner of the interwebs, I have not set familiarised myself with their sound.
The Reaper is the starting track of the album and straight away the Paul Dianno-era Maidenesque riffs begin roaring blended with a deeper sounding style of Rob Halford-sounding vocals mixed with a slight hint of Manowar influenced vocal melodies. The drums race along the guitars, keeping that old school, hard rocking energy flowing. The solo is insanely played, making you want to bust out the air guitar and begin rocking out in your bedroom. As the track comes to its close, it’s finished off with the addictive classic screams, conjuring up fond memories of the golden days of the NWOBHM scene.
The intro for Wrath of the Emerald Witch sounds eerily like the main riff in Maiden’s song Wasted Years. The vocals take a new form, this time in the form of Yorkshire’s own NWOBHM heroes Saxon. The guitar sections morph, somewhat lycanthropically, into a more thrashier assault of riffs and crunchy bass work. The lyrics take up more of an early day power metal feel, fortunately without the extra side dish of cheese. The third track, Kubilai Khan, rings in a similar vein to Priest’s song Victim of Changes, only faster paced while the vocals have that power metal feel echoing through them. A lot of the riffs are catchier than the cold – the bonus being that they’re a damn sight lot better than having a snotty nose and feeling like death warmed up.
Lyrically, The Samurai Returns, fits in perfectly with the band’s name and the album art while musically and vocally, it almost embodies those old school attitude and sounds that the band demonstrate ever so well in their music. City on the Edge of Forever literally screams with NWOBHM era influences from Saxon and Maiden to Judas Priest and a tasty dash of Blitzkreig. The lyrics provide the paint and the music provides the canvas for what the vocals turn into a beautiful song that is so vibrant and powerful that very few songs can ever compare to it. No Surrender feels more chilled out compared to the other tracks yet it still brings a certain thundering war-like sound to the eardrums. The vocals certainly bring a charismatic tone to the song, blending creatively with the music.
The Land of the Rising Sun is one of the more creatively genius songs on the album, with the Asian styled riffs softer use of percussion yet I feel it doesn’t quite live up energy and magnitude of the rest of the album when it first begins. The vocals still do a great job at telling a story with masterfully penned lyrics. The song progresses, eventually, into a very Maiden-stylised piece, almost feeling like Katana’s own Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The most obvious difference being that it doesn’t last as long as the aforementioned song. The Asian based riffs make a second appearance in the song, keeping the concept of the song alive and kicking like an underdog boxer who refuses to go down.
The Gambit tears its way through, like a toned down version of Motorhead topped with the usual lyrics that dominated the 80s metal scene. Modesty Blaise is another song on the album bringing about the classic power metal musicianship. The bass work has a nice sounding twang to it, giving the song a very distinct appeal. And finally the album comes to a hard rocking halt with The Wisdom of Emond’s Field, that oddly sounds like the previous track before almost recreating a faster version of Tyr’s Hold The Heathen Hammer High. Fortunately, Katana soon bring the song back into its classic metal groundings with a brilliant use of melodic riffs and memorable hooks. The second half of the song brings about a vocal section similar to that of Maiden’s Charlotte The Harlot before morphing back into its old high energy anthem self.
In recent years, it seemed like the only good thing to come out of Sweden was Kopparberg. It would seem, that after listen to this album, I’ve been proven wrong. I’ve always liked classic and traditional metal and Katana have come so close to virtually perfecting the old school sound in one album, which is Storms Of Wars. I think Sweden now have their own Iron Maiden.