Storm Seeker is the debut solo album from Norwegian musician ICS Vortex (real name Simen Hestnæs), who has made a name for himself most notably as a member of the acts Dimmu Borgir, Borknagar and Arcturus. Storm Seeker was released in 2011 and features Vortex handling most of the duties himself aside from the drums which are handled by his former Borknagar bandmate Asgeir Mickelson. Susperia guitarist Cyrus also provides some additional lead guitar while Arne Martinussen provides some piano and Hammond organ.
Storm Seeker is one of those albums I got off slightly on the wrong foot with due to being led to believe that it was a black metal album. It’s certainly listed as such on every online metal resource I looked at prior to publishing this review but when I listened to it I was surprised to discover that Storm Seeker isn’t a black metal album at all. The sound of the guitars is kind of pushing towards a melodic black metal sound but that’s about as far as Storm Seeker goes towards being a black metal album. There are no black metal style vocals in the album with Vortex sticking to his clean vocals throughout, and what a performance on his part it is too. This is actually the very best I have ever heard him sing. But anyway with the little note about how badly this has been categorised out of the way, let’s more onto the music.
The sound here despite some minimal black metal leanings in those guitars is perhaps best considered a form of melodic metal. It doesn’t exactly have the feel that I’d normally associate with traditional metal, but it’s a somewhat difficult album to accurately pigeonhole, so I guess melodic heavy metal serves here. The album certainly has leanings towards progressive metal or perhaps even avant-garde metal, but none of that is so glaringly obvious when listening to it. In fact I’d say most of the album sounds like things are being played safe, with nearly every track in the same or similar style.
To be honest I’m not actually half as impressed by the actual music as I am with Vortex’s vocals. His compositions certainly serve to highlight his top notch vocal ability, but don’t have that many standout points of their own. The only real surprise on the compositional front is the closing track The Sub Mariner, which really breaks away from the template of the album in that it’s instrumental and not remotely metal. The music doesn’t exactly wow in any way, although I can appreciate the way it allows the vocals to soar. In general this is certainly as close to a vocal album as metal music really gets.
So yes, the vocals are the true highlight of the album, but with a voice as powerful as Vortex’s I really would have liked the music to carry some additional punch to it than what Storm Seeker ultimately offers the listener. This is certainly a mostly positive experience, but ultimately doesn’t stand up to the expectations that I had for the album. A “good but could be better” rating is deserved in this case, but I still think the album is worth picking up for fans of Vortex’s vocals.
(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven, scored at 7.3/10)