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Review: Heavy Load - Riders of the Ancient Storm
Heavy Load
Riders of the Ancient Storm

Label: No Remorse Records
Year released: 2023
Duration: 48:48
Tracks: 8
Genre: Heavy Metal


Review online: January 6, 2024
Reviewed by: MetalMike
Readers' Rating
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Rated 4/5 (80%) (12 Votes)

I didn't listen to Heavy Load back in the '80s but feel like I should have because the covers to their albums Death or Glory and Stronger than Evil are legendarily epic examples of cheesy yet awesome heavy metal artwork. Having passed on them for 40 years, I was psyched to get their 2023 "comeback" album Riders of the Ancient Storm for review. Sporting three quarters of the original lineup that formed in the late 1970s, the first thing that jumps out is how this album sounds. If you said it was recorded right after Death and Glory was released in 1983, and never released until now, I'd have no trouble at all believing you. Riders of the Ancient Storm has a clean, clear production, as befits an album released in 2023, but the sound of the band as they crank out their brand of rocking heavy metal is pure '80s with a lot of '70s hard rock influences. "Ride the Night" and "Raven is Calling" are solid '80s-style metal tunes, no frills, just fist-pumping riffs and catchy choruses through and through. On the other hand, "We Rock the World" slows things down and adopts a more bluesy and sultry approach to the songwriting and reminds me of Led Zeppelin's '80s doppelganger, Kingdom Come. The production on "Walhalla Warriors" is noticeably different from some of the other songs. There's more echo on the vocals, like they are in a different room, so it sounds a lot like Manowar's Sign of the Hammer album and the keys have a similar sound to Led Zeppelin's "All of My Love" from In Through the Out Door. It is a slow, dull track and a slog to sit through, once again similar to "All of My Love." "Angel Dark" is another good one, but leans hard into hard rock territory and makes me think of a lost Triumph song from the Allied Forces sessions with maybe a little early Manilla Road to the chorus.

There's nothing on Riders of the Ancient Storm I dislike and, honestly, this is exactly the kind of music I grew up with and still have a huge affinity for, but the album simply isn't grabbing me, even after several listens. I just don't find the songwriting all that engaging. Regardless, I'm glad this band is back and encourage fans of '80s metal to dig in as there is great sound to go along with the impeccable pedigree, but it isn't as strong as I was hoping it would be.

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Review: Riders of the Ancient Storm (reviewed by Michel Renaud)
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