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ICS Vortex - "Storm Seeker" (CD)

ICS Vortex - "Storm Seeker" CD cover image

"Storm Seeker" track listing:

1. The Blackmobile (3:18)
2. Odin's Tree (4:43)
3. Skoal! (2:30)
4. Dogsmacked (4:25)
5. Aces (3:42)
6. Windward (3:55)
7. When Shuffled Off (3:47)
8. Oil In Water (4:55)
9. Storm Seeker (6:32)
10. Flaskeskipper (2:48)
11. The Sub Mariner (4:35)

Reviewed by on August 11, 2011

"Far less of a black metal disc than would be expected, ICS Vortex’s new solo record 'Storm Seeker' may be very divisive for fans of his other projects, as it dips into styles and lyrical themes that head in very unexpected directions."

After hearing his contributions to the likes of Arcturus or Borknagar, many a metal fan has wondered what an ICS Vortex focused album would end up sounding like. Thanks to his recent dismissal from Dimmu Borgir, that question can now be answered. Far less of a black metal disc than would be expected, ICS Vortex’s new solo record, “Storm Seeker,” may be divisive for fans of his other projects, as it dips into styles and lyrical themes that head in unexpected directions.

Opener “Blackmobile” is a bit of a red herring in the story of “Storm Seeker,” as it’s the most overtly metal track to be found on the album. There’s definitely a running thread of heavy guitar work throughout the disc, but the overall tone and feel of many of the tracks is more in the vein of indie rock, prog, and folk than anything from Norway that would normally have an indecipherable logo and an underused bassist. Themes of gambling, cars, and even love are also rather unexpected subjects from one of black metal’s champions.

Essentially all of the lyrical delivery on the album is either traditional clean male vocals, or Vortex’s iconic higher pitched singing. How well that’s going to be received will depend on whether any given metalhead looked forward to those vocals on Dimmu Borgir’s work or just took them as something that had to be dealt with. For the most part it works well and creates a very unique atmosphere that won’t be heard in many other metal leaning albums. In a few instances it gets to be a bit much, however. The entire “Skoal” song, along with the “Woo-oo-oohs” throughout the track “Aces,” almost seem like a parody, but it’s painfully clear the singing isn’t meant to be humorous. With the focus on vocals, the mix also sounds a bit off in places, with the instruments having a flat sound that doesn’t have much room to breathe or pop.

Although some will likely find the constant high pitched vocals to be a bit overbearing, as a whole the experiment of “Storm Seeker” is worth hearing for fans either ICS Vortex or metal with only clean singing. Songs like “Dogsmacked” strike a strong balance between the metal and non-metal elements, while other tracks inject dark and atmospheric segments that will satisfy the appetites of black metal lovers. For something different than the standard Norwegian symphonic black metal fare with strong rock roots, the debut ICS Vortex solo release hits more than it misses.

Highs: ICS Vortex gets his chance to shine as the front man in a heavily rock influenced album with just enough metal to keep it interesting.

Lows: Some of the high pitched vocals are unintentionally humorous and the production isn't fantastic.

Bottom line: An interesting clean vocal rock/metal experiment from ICS Vortex that is mostly a success.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)