Album Review – Stormzone / Ignite The Machine (2020)

One of the most important names of the underground UK scene ignites their metal machine once again, offering us all another round of their undisputed Heavy Metal.

A name evoking images of power and strength, Belfast, Northern Ireland-based Heavy Metal/Hard Rock outfit Stormzone is set to release their seventh full-length album, entitled Ignite The Machine, featuring 12 original compositions of blistering Heavy Metal that have already been hailed as their strongest collection of tracks to date. A melting pot of Power Metal and traditional Heavy Metal, Ignite The Machine has all Stormzone trademarks, but more melodies and bigger, catchier choruses than ever before, raising the bar even higher than what the band currently comprised of John “Harv” Harbinson on lead vocals, Steve Moore and newcomer Dave Shields on the guitars, Graham McNulty on bass and backing vocals, and newcomer Davy Bates on drums did in their previous album, the 2018 high-octane metal party titled Lucifer’s Factory. From the very first notes in the opening track “Tolling Of The Bell” to the electrifying tribute to all bands we learned to love through the years in the closing tune “This Is Heavy Metal”, Stormzone kick some serious ass in Ignite The Machine, inviting us all to join those UK metallers in their exciting quest for heavy music.

Steve and Dave kick off the band’s metallic feast with their melodious riffs in Tolling Of The Bell, generating a beautiful base for Harv to shine on vocals in a classic Heavy Metal atmosphere inspired by the golden years of the NWOBHM, and speeding things up the band fires the electrifying title-track Ignite The Machine, where Harv’s piercing vocals are effectively supported by the band’s backing vocals and the unstoppable beats by Davy, bringing to our avid ears elements from the music by Judas Priest, Helloween and Gamma Ray, among other metal giants. After such insane start to the album, we face more of their strident riffs and solos in the also old school My Disease, where Graham and Davy bring forth a thunderous atmosphere with their respective weapons while Harv leads his metal crew with his high-pitched vocal lines, before Davy hammers his drums in the also fast and vibrant Each Setting Sun, with the band’s guitar duo showcasing all their passion for heavy music through their headbanging riffs, therefore maintaining the album at a high level of adrenaline.

Melodic guitar lines ignite another Heavy Metal extravaganza titled Dragon Cartel, heavier and groovier than its predecessors, with Stormzone investing into their darkest side, reminding me of some of their creations from Lucifer’s Factory, whereas in Nothing To Fear, which begins in a Dream Theater’s “Pull Me Under” style blended with 80’s Hard Rock, the sound of the guitars is absolutely heavy, sharp and piercing, resulting in a classic power ballad by the band where Harv puts his heart and soul into declaiming its inspiring lyrics. Then it’s time to venture through the realms of old school Heavy and Power Metal in Revolution, a dancing metal hymn led by Davy’s precise beats and the always powerful vocals by Harv, while Steve and Dave deliver sheer electricity from their awesome shredding and solos. And New Age Necromancer couldn’t have been more traditional and straightforward than this, with the galloping bass by Graham being accompanied by a razor-edged riffage and pounding drums, being highly recommended for having a cold beer while watching Stormzone playing it live on stage.

Bringing forward melodic guitar lines and rumbling bass punches the band delivers the heavy-as-hell Dealer’s Reign infused with modern-day Hard Rock nuances, with the entire band being in total sync (not to mention another passionate performance by Harv on vocals), whereas we’re treated to an 80’s metal feast in Flame That Never Dies, where Harv’s vocals are beautifully supported by smooth acoustic guitars and delicate beats before the band brings pure thunder to the music, resulting in another classic creation showcasing more of their incendiary guitar solos for our total delight. Slightly less creative and exciting than its predecessors, albeit still very enjoyable, Under Her Spell offers the listeners Stormzone’s classic sonority, but without truly taking off (nothing that could harm the album, though), and back to a more ferocious and rebellious sound we have a fantastic ode to all things metal entitled This Is Heavy Metal, where Harv sings about our passion for Heavy Metal and all of our heroes the likes of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Accept, Manowar and Black Sabbath, while his bandmates generate a headbanging, groovy and thrilling ambience form start to finish. Moreover, have fun with the song’s last part, trying to identify all classic bands, albums and songs mentioned by Harv in the lyrics.

As mentioned in our review for their 2018 album Lucifer’s Factory, the guys from Stormzone live and breathe Heavy Metal, which is the main reason why they keep delivering exciting music album after album, with Ignite The Machine being no exception to that. Hence, don’t forget to give them a shout on Facebook and on Instagram, to listen to more of their music on Spotify and on YouTube, and of course don’t forget to support Harv and his bandmates by purchasing Ignite The Machine from the Metalapolis Records webstore  as a CD + LP bundle or as an LP + digital download bundle, as well as from Apple Music or from Amazon. Stormzone definitely re-ignited their metal machine in their new album, proving once again that they’ll never sell out and that they will always be loyal to their foundations. Because this, my friends, is Heavy Metal.

Best moments of the album: Ignite The Machine, Revolution, Flame That Never Dies and This Is Heavy Metal.

Worst moments of the album: Under Her Spell.

Released in 2020 Metalapolis Records

Track listing
1. Tolling Of The Bell 5:45
2. Ignite The Machine 4:26
3. My Disease 4:54
4. Each Setting Sun 4:58
5. Dragon Cartel 5:12
6. Nothing To Fear 4:00
7. Revolution 3:49
8. New Age Necromancer 6:21
9. Dealer’s Reign 5:57
10. Flame That Never Dies 5:08
11. Under Her Spell 5:32
12. This Is Heavy Metal 5:31

Band members
John “Harv” Harbinson – vocals
Steve Moore – guitars
Dave Shields – guitars
Graham McNulty – bass, backing vocals
Davy Bates – drums

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