Do you know what’s unfair? Any Israeli band with sympathies for the metal genres of the light on their flag will have the bar to success set at an impossible height.
Let’s face it, there’s real excellence in the Levant, a true hotspot for Gothic, Progressive, Melodic, and Symphonic Metal. And Israel fared extremely well in this realm so far. All a bit underrated still, but the European powerhouses of those genres got serious competition. And StormbounD here just threw themselves into the fray as an eager contender.
Moving goalposts or just highest standards? Take a seat at the judges’ table and wait for yer seat to turn to face the band.
At first, the RMR crew wasn’t quite sure if they should be amused or not. The band’s debut offering December dangerously sounded like some sort of copy of whatever Within Temptation1)
would should cough up these days but don’t. Yet, that feeling – luckily – didn’t quite last that long.
Already the excellent Altar of Innocence put a stop to that. StormbounD love to just go ahead and blatantly pick what sounds best for them out of a score of different genres. So, indeed, you’ll find an offering that’s at home in (old) Delain‘s backyard, as it is in those waters occupied by early Nightwish or the aforementioned WT2) of long-gone times. All of the above sometimes comes with some truly delicious gothic vibes that almost effortlessly paint the storyline in darker and gloomier colors whenever the piece warrants it.
Their penchant for pretty sturdy prog that suddenly bubbles to the forefront took us somewhat by surprise. The band may not be at Scardust levels (yet), but the prog-tuned ears over here took note. December also gallivants (a lot) about the Power Metal sphere at a somewhat subdued pace, which is great. If only they would not try to get into those Amaranthe-esque backwaters quite so often, it would actually improve the quality some. Variety can also kill the cat and Pop Metal might not be one of StormbounD‘s real sturdy strengths. Let’s just hope they won’t try to imitate Elize and her bunch much more in future.
Now, I’m almost certain that some in the reviewers’ community will try to push the band into the dime-a-dozen corner. Y’know, female front, a bunch of guys, and tunes we have kinda heard before gazillions of times. But we beg to differ. Even if all those genres the band fancies are oversaturated, December truly sticks. Not least of that is owed to the amazing vocal performance of Yael Horwitz and to her beauty-and-the-beast partner in crime Ofer Friedman. There’s real power and – for sure – true passion behind these vocals, even if – at times – they may not hit all those notes with utmost precision. Boy, even the growls are pretty palatable which is not always a given with those bands.
Oh, and let me quickly rectify something. The mention ‘bunch of guys’ actually hides a female guitarist – Shani Friedmann – whose shredding powers often delighted us. So, on top of pretty outstanding vocal powers, you get some cool riffing and delightful solos to boot. Speaking about which, did you notice the keyboard one on the title track. If not, why don’t you circle back and have a listen.
Now, let’s waste some ink on December – the title track. That’s where trve goth-sloth meets prog and power. A melodic powerhouse where StormbounD here pull out all the stops. In other words, if you’re looking for the essence of the record and – indeed – the band itself, this is where you go. It’s thus a pity that by the second half of the record, the energy kinda wanes somewhat. And whilst there are no bad tracks, the B-Side often sounds like Xandria during one of their better days. Which – by the way – is a further compliment.
Energetic, yet smooth. Highly technical, yet surprisingly consistent. Storytelling embedded in powerful riffs, solos, and divinely crafted melodies. All of that is powered by Horwitz‘s powerful voice that we marveled at more than once. That’s what December is all about. StormbounD created an amazing debut album. And whilst this is no perfect record3) (yet), the RMR crew nonetheless found themselves with their earphones glued to their skulls. This is a band that will go places still, and we – for one – are eager to hear more of them. In time, once they’re again ready. Oh, and as to the pretty tough measurement stick for bands in the Levant, methinks that these guys fared pretty well. Ways to go, folks.
Record Rating: 7/10 | Label: Self-Released | Web: Official Band Site
Release Date: 5 August 2022