Almost a year ago, Stormburner released one of the most exciting Epic Heavy Metal records of the last decade – no doubt about it. In my opinion, Shadow Rising is a flawless masterpiece within this genre which therefore deserves much more attention. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to talk to Mike Stark, the vocalist of the quintet from Stockholm. If you don’t know these Swedes up to now, you’ll have to check them out right away!
First of all, thank you very much for your time, Mike. How are you?
Mike: Hi André, it is my pleasure. On a personal level I am doing just fine considering the circumstances of the Global Pandemic. From a band point of view we were supposed to be on our very first USA tour right now and then soon doing a couple of European festivals – so it is quite sad when you think about it; but hey, there is nothing we can do about it and everyone is suffering equally so we try to keep the inner flame burning while staying positive.
Almost a year ago, you released Shadow Rising – one of my favourite records of 2019. I rated it 9/10 on another German platform. Can you tell our readers about the feedback you have received?
Well, to be honest we were all a bit shocked when the reviews started to roll in; it was on a whole other level than we would have ever expected. I mean we released the album in December and pretty soon after the release we started seeing Shadow Rising on several of these “Best of 2019” lists. After a month we were told the first CD press was sold out and that Pure Steel had ordered a 2nd one. Our band webshop also sold out of all the T-shirts and we could tell that a lot of people really liked the album. It was mind-boggling but also a lot of fun with so many things happening.
What was the weirdest thing that you read in a review about your debut?
That is a very good question, I can’t recall anything weird about Shadow Rising but my memory is short, haha.
It’s no different with me, Mike (lol)!
I would have to recall a moment some years ago with my previous band where I read a review stating this about me: “I think my biggest complaint is really the vocalist, who I’m convinced is merely a friend of the band who got a spot in the line-up simply because he was a nice guy with a high voice who let the bassist crash on his couch a few times. This dude couldn’t sing his way out of a grade school talent show, and it taints an already lame album even further.” This guy had his blog called something like Lair of the Bastard and his words about my vocals almost made me quit singing for a while but I managed to shake it off and kept working on improving my voice.
I think that guy (no link here!) needs a fresh pair of ears… Anyway, Shadow Rising sounds and LOOKS amazing. How did you get in touch with Ken Kelly?
Thank you very much, André, I agree with you that Ken Kelly did a wonderful job on the cover artwork. Basically I just sent him a message on Facebook where we had a good conversation, he really liked the “Men at Arms” single (watch the video below, BB) that was released more than a year prior to the album release, so we then talked on the phone and agreed that we both wanted to work together.
How would you classify your musical style? And what do you think about such labels in general?
I would classify us as a “Heavy Metal Band”. I think labels can be good sometimes because it can make it easier for fans of a certain genre to identify what they should give a chance and listen to. I guess there can also be negative effects of this as well but personally I am not bothered.
Are you already working on your second album?
Yes, we have actually already started with this and we are planning on getting it released in the fall of 2021, however we will probably be looking to release a song in the spring of 2021. Things are coming along nicely and we are all very inspired and enthusiastic in the creative process. It is very hard to judge your own material but I have a gut feeling that this next album will be the best I have ever been part of.
Wonderful news, Mike. I’m really looking forward to it! My colleagues Aidan and Tim won’t get a chance to review it, it’s mine (imagine Gollum’s voice right here, lol). I HAVE to ask the following question: What’s your favourite Manowar record?
That is a hard question to answer since I love them all. For me the first record that I heard was Triumph of Steel, a true masterpiece but I mean: Battle Hymns, Hail to England, Into Glory Ride, Sign of the Hammer, Fighting the World are all masterpieces, so it is hard to say that one record is better than the other.
What was the last album you listened to before this interview?
The White Goddess, Atlantean Kodex. It is pure gold and I will never get tired of listening to it.
That’s my favourite record of all time. It really changed my life after the first spins. I’m sure this Epic Metal Blog wouldn’t even exist without this masterpiece – and my colleagues adore it, too. What’s your favourite album this year (so far)?
Right now I would say either Torch with Reignited or the new Death Dealer, Conquered Lands.
Last question: How would you define the term Epic Metal?
For me it is more about what feelings the music incites within. It doesn’t necessary have to be “All in” on “Sword & Sorcery” or a reciting of the Illiad for me to call it “Epic”. When I listen to music and feel strong emotions like: Heroism, gallantry or Power & Greatness it is usually what I would define as Epic in my book. The subgenre named “Epic Metal” with many great bands like Manilla Road, Cirith Ungol, Visigoth, Brocas Helm or Battleroar, to name a few, is really cool, and I do listen to a lot of these bands but I probably wouldn’t categorize Stormburner as a band into this subgenre, some of our songs, absolutely. I would probably describe our style more as “Heavy Metal with an Epic touch”.
Well, that sounds appropriate to me, a fitting label for Stormburner. Mike, it was great talking to you and I hope to see you all on the road when this pandemic is over.
Burn the Storm!
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