Sci-fi and fantasy is practically woven in to the DNA of metal, and there are plentiful examples of it in extreme metal’s history, whether it be bands taking inspiration from the obvious culprits (see: the plethora of bands taking names from the works of J.R.R. Tolkein), to Trey Azagthoth giving praise to 80’s NIntendo games in the linear notes to Covenant and being pictured with his anime collection, to Gridlink writing songs inspired by Neon Genesis Evangelion and the Culture novels of Iain Banks. One-man death metal band Stormland‘s latest album, Songs of Future Wars, is heavily inspired by the Mobile Suit Gundam metaseries, but as with those previous examples, you don’t need to know your RX-78-2 from your EVA Unit 00 to enjoy it, as this is a solid slice of death metal that pulls from multiple strands of the genre to create something crushing.
Right from the start, Songs of Future Wars launches itself at the listener in full-blooded style, with opener ‘Blitz Fatality (GAT-X207)’ being a one minute onslaught of crusty death metal that wastes no time and doesn’t stick around, like early (as in, pre-Realm of Chaos early) Bolt Thrower but with even more fury. Following track ‘Conflict Child (GN-001)’ is another rager, with more brutality and technicality creeping in – it’s not quite at the same levels as, say, Dying Fetus, but imagine a cross being that band and Bolt Thrower and you’re not far off. Stand-out track ‘Integrated Weapon System (GAT-X105E)’ introduces more melody to great effect, but without ever becoming melodic death metal, and it’s this combination that marks the high point of the album.
As the album moves on, it becomes clear that each track is very much designed to have its own character; and fittingly so, as each one is based upon a separate pilot or suit from Gundam. The sound never changes drastically (with one exception), but there’s enough variation in there to not only keep the energy high, but also keep the album interesting, with combination of melody, crust-influenced roughness, and brutality meaning that – together – the songs avoid many of the pitfalls of those respective sub-genres.
The only song I feel that doesn’t really work is the closing title track. The longest song on the album, it’s also the most ambitious musically, opening with interwoven clean and distorted guitar melodies, restrained drumming, and a sense of spaciousness that gradually gives way to familiar palm-muted, chugging riffs and traditional death metal heaviness. The aspect that doesn’t work so well are the clean vocals, which don’t succeed in conveying the emotion they seek to; and the transition from the chorus to the clean-guitar led mid-section is too jarring to quite work. Stormland should be applauded for trying something different, especially considering that no one would probably have complained if Songs of Future Wars had closed with another track in the same style as the seven that preceded the final song, but it doesn’t quite reach the emotional heights it aspires to.
That shouldn’t take away from the achievements of the rest of the album, though. Songs of Future Wars is an invigorating, crushing, and, at times, borderline-overwhelming demonstration of death metal, made all the more impressive for being the work of a single individual.
Songs of Future Wars is due for release on 3 August 2018, and can be pre-ordered on Bandcamp on digital; and on a variety of one-off custom Gundam Suit models that include the album on a USB stick.