Well, well, well. How time flies. On 7 November 2018, my first ever review, under the unassuming alias of Nameless_N00b_17, was posted for The Grand Manifestation by Sweden’s Third Storm. Almost five years on, despite various spates of chronic overrating and hopefully showing some improvement in my writing, I am still here to see Third Storm return with their sophomore album, The Locust Mantra. Originally formed in 1986 by Heval Bozarslan, it took them a bloody long time to get that first record out, so under five years for the next one is pretty good going and Bozarslan has also put out another record with his other project, Gold Spire, in that period. Indeed, it was Gold Spire1 that caused me to revise my score for The Grand Manifestation down from a giddy 3.0, to a seasoned 2.5. It was a fun record but packed in too many influences, leaving it mixed and with Third Storm lacking a clear identity. On a new label and with some lineup changes, have Bozarslan and co fixed this on the second album in a planned trilogy, The Locust Mantra?
A rampant, nasty platter of blackened death metal, leaning heavily into influences from the proto-black metal and melodeath scenes, The Locust Mantra is a heap of fun. Channeling the spirit of Black Metal-era Venom but sounding much more like Dissection’s The Somberlain, it’s a lot more melodic and nuanced than opener “The Clandestine Gospel” would have you believe. On tracks like the outstanding “When Noble Hearts Failed,” Third Storm have a sort of epic grandeur about them that could be achieved by combining early Wolves in the Throne Room with Mistur’s In Memoriam. More technical in the guitar work, however, I sense that lead guitarist Hasse Hansson has been listening to Skeletonwitch’s Beyond the Permafrost, as he combines that galloping pace and frenetic fretwork, with huge dollops of melody and a couple of great leads (“World Infernal” and “Alter Omega”). Hansson is ably assisted by a very strong rhythm section in new bassist and drummer, Daniel Håkansson and Jesper Ojala, respectively, and returning rhythm guitarist David Eriksson, who combine to give Third Storm a real depth and richness of sound.
Moving down as well as up through the gears, The Locust Mantra manages to weave in some down-tempo doom riffs (“In the Garden of Crystallized Souls” and “Demigod Doctrine”) and does so much more successfully than when the band played around with these influences on The Grand Manifestation. Bozarslan’s raw, gravelly snarls have a rasp to them that sits right on the line between black and death metal vox, with maybe something of early Autopsy (circa Mental Funeral) in there. For the most part, it’s a very strong performance although on “In the Garden of Crystallized Souls,” Bozarslan opts for a stylised, semi-spoken delivery that doesn’t work but, thankfully, the vocals there are pretty sparing. In other places, when the tempo really gets up, like on frantic closer “Dawn of the Fearmongers,” it feels slightly like he’s struggling to keep pace and the vocals lose some of their defining clarity and razor-sharp edge.
The Locust Mantra is significantly more focused and refined than the swirling mixing pot that was The Grand Manifestation. Without sacrificing that energy and vitality, Third Storm have significantly tightened up their songwriting and made the varied influences on which they draw work for them, rather than the other way round. Album highlights “The Clandestine Gospel” and “When Noble Hearts Failed” are top-drawer blackened death, with heavy lashings of melodeath. Not all the material quite reaches those heights and the back third of the album is notably not quite as strong as the front end but as a package, there is a lot to like and very little to complain about.
The production is also well above average, with a great tone to Hansson and Eriksson’s guitars, while Ojala’s drums really pop without dominating. It feels like Third Storm really found their stride on The Locust Mantra, delivering on the undeniable promise of songs like “Gorakaathuar” from their debut. The development between their last album (apparently inversely related to the quality of the cover art) and this one has me genuinely excited for the final installment in this trilogy, even if we do have to wait another five years to get it. Whether I will still be here to share My Important Thoughts or will have finally succumbed to a random act of Steel wiolence, we shall see.2
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Chaos Records
Websites: thirdstorm.nu | facebook.com/thirdstorm
Releases Worldwide: October 6th, 2023