The entire FORGOTTEN SCROLL editors team, reviews the new HEAVY LOAD album:
Forty years. An entire life someone may point. Yes forty years has passed since HEAVY LOAD released their “Stronger than Evil” full length back in 1983. Now, at last, on October 6th, HEAVY LOAD will release their long-awaited comeback album titled: “Riders of the Ancient Storm”.
Three out of four original members are sharing the magic of “Riders of the Ancient Storm” album.
From 1979 and onwards, HEAVY LOAD was a four piece band. Besides the founding Wahlquist brothers (Ragne Wahlquist on vocals and guitars & Styrbjörn Wahlquist on drums and vocals), the band members were Torbjörn Ragnesjö and Eddy Malm.
Torbjörn Ragnesjö is still the bass player and Eddy Malm is an occasional special guest and joins the band on a few songs at certain concerts.
In 2018, the former STEELWING member member Niclas Sunnerberg joined HEAVY LOAD on guitar.
So Ragne Wahlquist, Styrbjörn Wahlquist, Torbjörn Ragnesjö and Niclas Sunnerberg are joining forces to offer to the world HEAVY LOAD’s comeback album. The record consists of 7 songs plus one bonus instrumental that is featured on the CD version.
“Ride the Night”: This is the album’s debut single. An instant HEAVY LOAD classic, a Heavy Metal anthem of our age. Mid tempo and as melodic as it can get -both in the verses and choruses-, this song resurrects the Heavy Metal spirit. An amazing job has been done on the classical / orchestral parts that provide the song with a brilliant extra touch of melody. I would point main times the above mentioned parts that are mainly performed by violin and used to the majority of the songs, playing a very important role to the album’s overall musicianship: This is pure gold in a few words. Back to the song I must point that it is a great album opener and an excellent single choice as it actually marks -as a new composition- the band’s official return to action. Oh yes. Ragne’s vocals sound amazing in this!
“We Rock the World”: One of the two songs that Styrbjörn Wahlquist have composed on the album. A Hard ‘N’ Heavy composition that will take you by storm. It carries a remarkable late 70s touch and features an amazing guitar solo plus Sunnerberg’s vocals that are taking it to the next level. Yes Styrbjörn actually sings the two songs he have composed on this album and he sounds amazing!
“Walhalla Warriors” was composed back in 1986 and it is the older song that is included in this full length. I am really unable to count how many times I have listened to the demo version of the song that was partially released back in 2018 as a teaser to the -back then- forthcoming album. Another HEAVY LOAD anthem, another instant classic. The orchestral parts are really making the big difference in this one IMO. But we still have one of the best choruses that the band have ever composed and a wonderful guitar solo. The composition is touched by the classic HEAVY LOAD vibe. I still can not stop listening to it. Those who were on the Up the Hammers Festival XIII -Athens, Greece- have witnessed the magic of this song live. Yes it must be pointed that those HEAVY LOAD reunion concerts that took part back in ’18 were an important piece of the band’s reunion puzzle that shaped in 2017. And yes, the very next chapter of this reunion saga is this particular album that we are reviewing right here, right now.
“Angel Dark” is the most adventurous track of the record. Is it just me or the song is actually blessed by a brilliant RUSH touch (“Grace Under Pressure” era). One way or another, here we are dealing with a piece of Heavy Metal art, an excellent song full of dynamics and tempo changes. The exotic, mystical solo, the orchestral parts and keys and the top vocals are driving the composition to brilliance. Love Ragne’s way of singing in this one.
“Slave no More” is the second song that Styrbjörn Wahlquist have composed for this album. A dark and majestic composition that carries this very specific BLACK SABBATH – “Headless Cross” vibe. Well actually the mentioned “Headless Cross” aura can be noticed in the most of the slow parts of the album -tip: listen carefully to the keyboards both in the verses of “Slave no More” and in “We Rock the World” for some more “Headless Cross” heaven-. I generally think that the mid tempo songs are the band’s peak -when compared with the slower ones- but it seems that here we got a perfect composition, full of heaviness and melody. Styrbjörn’s voice is also great in this one.
“Slave no More” and its follower “Raven is Calling” are the newer songs that have been composed for the “Riders of the Ancient Storm” sessions. With the above fact in mind I keep on asking myself the following question as I listen to the “Raven is Calling” masterpiece again and again: “How the hell is possible for a band after 40 years to be able to compose songs that carry the same spirit as the band’s classic trademark songs”? Yes here we are dealing with a composition that carries all the classic HEAVY LOAD trademark features for good. Mid tempo, heavy as hell and amazingly catchy, “Raven is Calling” is reaching high sky level not only due to its orchestral parts and its melodic vocal lines but mainly to its solid and groundbreaking guitars. Another HEAVY LOAD classic? Yes.
“Sail Away” is one of the most emotional songs I have EVER heard. I am taking my words very seriously and this is not a statement generated through an enthusiasm explosion. I spent lots of hours listening to the tune again and again. In each and every listen my heart and soul were filled with the very same feeling that I had when I first heard some of my life soundtrack’s classics. Tears came into my eyes together with a huge, real and deep smile on my face. Someone should take some extra time and listen the lyrics of this song and the way those lyrics are singed. In the chorus the performance reaches the absolute, literal emotion, as the creators also go in tears while singing and playing: They are almost 70 years old and would like more time to give more things, but they know they may not get it. At the same time an overwhelming feeling of hope and optimism is born as the journey goes on. This song is pure magic. A wonderful and difficult to be described feeling of nostalgia, melancholy, happiness and hope is generated by this single composition. This song is a huge moment in the Heavy Metal history. You can mark my words and we can discuss it again when I will be 70 years old myself still listening to this very masterpiece. The song’s melodic formula and overall orchestration points to my favorite “Wake of Poseidon” by KING CRIMSON and this another reason that the song is already on the general list of my personal favorites and it is of course my favorite tune of this album.
“Butterfly Whisper”: Is a beautiful acoustic, instrumental piece, that will be a bonus tracks on the CD edition of the album. It straightly points to favorite psych / folk / prog 70s formulas and that is why it becomes a serious highlight on the release.
The lyrics: A tale written in stone and steel
Ragne Wahlquist is the author of Wahlgaard Saga – a series of novels soon to be released in both English and Swedish. The series actually captures a family saga in a Viking age setting. Several scenes in the novels are also rendered in the lyrics on the new HEAVY LOAD album. These scenes are most evident in the songs “Raven is Calling”, “Angel Dark”, “Walhalla Warriors” and “Sail Away”. The book’s preface is written by Styrbjörn Wahlquist.
A special edition of Ragne’s novel will be released in conjunction with the ”Keep It True Rising” festival in Germany on the 6th of October this year – the same date as the release of the new album.
Part of the album is recorded in 1986 at the old Thunderload Studio -the studio that was run by the band back on the day-, it is now resurrected and evolved to the new Thunderload Studio where the rest of the album has been recorded, using the good old analogue techniques and equipment. The result is phenomenal: Warm sound, remarkable frequency balancing, huge guitar sound and a touch of perfection on the overall sounding of the orchestral instruments in the mix.
There are lot of really great things going on on this album. Top of the tops songwriting, into the point, wise guitar work, brilliant classical / orchestral parts that are perfectly balanced on the songs, in a way that reminded my very much the second “Material Sanctuary” of the Gods VENI DOMINE. But there is something more about this album:
“Riders of the Ancient Storm” is a record that carries the old magic. And this magic is generously offered today to all of us, by a band that has nothing to prove, by a band that has returned simply wanting to offer some more music from the heart and soul.
“Riders of the Ancient Storm” is an album full of inspiration. An album full of greatness. An album full of truth. An album full of life. It is able to teach or to simply remind to us that music is a true gift. A way of life. A way to go. Forever.
This is a classic album that will be loved, remembered and mentioned thousands of times on the decades to come.
HEAVY LOAD is the best Epic Heavy Metal band from Europe and among the biggest and most important names of Heavy Metal in general. The combination of lyrical and polemic style that the band adopted in the “Death or Glory” and “Stronger than Evil” records still remains insuperable. Those albums were so good, that everyone was devastated when the band split-up, but now – like a dream coming true – this legendary Swedish quartet returns 40 years later with a new album, showing to us that some people -the band members- have understood what was Heavy Metal all about, how serious music it is, and how can be healthy evolved to our era.
The new album reaches the top levels of nostalgia and admiration for an old fan of the band to the point of tears. The band is still passionate and its dreamy Epic Heavy Metal causes multiple chills, just like 40 years ago. The music is a bit more keyboard-oriented and the vocals are less harsh and more melodic, but that amazing epic feeling that we adored is still here.
The band is taking its sound to the 2020s, making its music more epic, operatic and emotional. Actually, “Riders of the Ancient Storm” is not just a come-back album but an album-statement, pointing out that good Heavy Metal is here and still has a lot to offer to those who are patient and never give up on their favorite music.
So, besides memories and an 80s feeling, the album presents the current face of the band which finds the members extremely mature and without any fear to put new elements to their music, rendering their sound richer and more diverse. For instance, HEAVY LOAD always loved the keyboards, which are still here of course, but this time we can hear the sound of the violin as well. Everything of course, within the Epic Heavy Metal context of the band.
HEAVY LOAD present their third best album. It is for those who never stopped believing to the band and never stopped listening to their classic tracks. And now the band returns the favor with an amazing album full of melodies and new anthems to accompany the classic ones. How can Ηeavy Μetal die if we have bands and albums like that?
Aris “Slave No More” Kntg
I remember vividly the first time I came upon the name HEAVY LOAD. It was back in the deep 90s in an article featured in the Greek Metal Invader magazine. The article was very short but the photo of the cover of HEAVY LOAD’s albums was steaming of metallic power. I HAD TO LISTEN TO THIS BAND. If you where around back then, you should know that this was literally impossible as the radio was playing mostly “mainstream” heavy metal, METALLICA, IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST, HELLOWEEN and later HAMERFALL etc., but the urge to listen to this mysterious band was becoming obsession. One day I found a copy of “Death or Glory” album in a used metal records shop, for a considerable amount of money. I managed to gather the sum, just by eating cheap croissant for days but it was totally worth it. From the first notes of “Heavy Metal Angels” I knew that HEAVY LOAD was no ordinary band… and the rest is a well known history…
…Decades had passed and history was transformed into myth. Until sometime a couple of years ago HEAVY LOAD emerged back from their Nordic towers for a couple of live shows. A glimmer of hope was born: Could there be another HEAVY LOAD album? And if there was, would it be worthy of the bands mythical legacy?
And then the news of the new album appeared, and when Chris told me that we should do a massive presentation of it, I felt the burden of responsibility upon my shoulders. How will it sound, but mostly, even if most compositions are old ones will the sparkle of the old HEAVY LOAD be there as well? Let’s see song to song:
Ride the Night: This is a fast rocker in the typical HEAVY LOAD fashion: a mixture of “Run with the Devil” with “Heavy Metal Angels” and a touch of “Full Speed at High Level” heavy rock vibe. But everything is there: the vocals, the guitars, the sound: it sounds as if it came from a long lost cassette back in the early 80’s. The chorus is massive: it lures the listener into a journey for another conquest.
Rock the World: a mid-tempo heavy rocker, with an “early 80’s” BLACK SABBATH guitar riff. It is the most “commercial” and “light-hearted” song of the album, yet it
is another part in the HEAVY LOAD tradition as rocking tunes were essential on the band’s albums. (Styrbjörn Wahlquist composition/vocals here).
Walhalla Warriors: This song is already known to most of you as it is a long lost composition from the deep 80’s. Yet listening this in its full prime as a part of a whole project is a new experience. This is massive: an almost six minutes epic monument: everything is there: classical music influences, the legendary vocals, the guitars but mostly the epic atmosphere that only HEAVY LOAD know how to make. Is really quite hard to describe it but it’s one of those times that I felt a shivering, a trampling in the heart. The front cover picture of the Viking warriors who come across the biker becomes reality. This is an epic conclusion to the “Stronger than Evil” and “Daybreak Ecstasy” trilogy.
Angel Dark: faster but still epic. It brings memories of “Might for Right”, “Still there is Time” and “Traveler” themes. I loved the solo break in the middle of the
song as well as the song’s unorthodox structure. Surely a song to be played live.
Slave no More: I don’t want to exaggerate but I cannot believe I heard such a song in 2023. This is an 8 minute epic masterpiece, slow and doomy, heavy and lyrical in the
vein of “Caroline” and “Storm”. This is pure power: a simple yet dominant guitar riff along with a BLACK SABBATH vibe. Also this is one of the newer songs of the album, a prime example that HEAVY LOAD still “got it” (another song, composed and sung by Styrbjörn Wahlquist).
Raven is Calling: this is the most “modern song” of the album and another recent composition. And no HEAVY LOAD have not transformed into one of those hipster /retro / soya drinking bands. I talk about the keys that seem to play a bigger part here, providing a neo-classical harmony that it’s quite fitting. Yet everything else is HEAVY as Hell. This is the most “The guitar is my Sword” song of the album: both a rocker and an epic one. I love the neo-classical licks in the solo.
Storm…. eeeeh i mean Sail Away: The conclusion of the album is another mid-tempo epic: The outcome of another conquest, a journey into the sunset for these old Vikings.
Powerful, emotional and heavy with a chorus that brings thrills and tears to the eyes of the listener. Its very difficult to write how I felt listening to this.
Butterfly Whispering: An acoustic bonus track. No vocals here, but not needed. Its eerie, melodic and carries you away.
Suffice to say that all songs (except mentioned) are composed and sung by Ragne Wahlquist and that a small part of the album was recorded in the old legendary Thunderload studio, while the rest of the recordings were completed in the new Thunderload studio. And wait a minute does the albim sound more “open”? Less “compressed”, less “digital”? Less fake? This is because it is full fucking analogue, recorded in high technology analogue equipment. And I am not saying this to bitch slap smaller bands that do not have the opportunity or the equipment to do that, but
to say that HEAVY LOAD left nothing on luck. Attention to detail is evident everywhere.
The album is close to perfection, a fitting addition into HEAVY LOAD catalog. This album is not for modern listeners, nor for those how take heavy metal lightly. This is not album to be heard with cheap earphones, as a part of a “spotify download” (spotishit i’d say) this album requires a certain rite: put it on the longplayer, turn down the lights, pour some cold beer and let yourself to be carried away in the land of Vikings.
“Hard rock is dead!” that’s what several labels answered to Styrbjörn and Ragne Wahlquist back in 1977 when they were asking for a contract to record “Full Speed at High Level”. They’d better forget about it, the company men concluded.
The brothers did not forget it at all and decided to finance the debut themselves. It was finally released in 1978 by Heavy Sounds label which went bankrupt, so the Wahlquists formed their own label, Thunderload, to produce the monumental classics that followed in the next two consecutive years: “Death or Glory” (1982) and “Stronger than Evil” (1983).
Part of “Riders of the Ancient Storm” has been recorded in the old Thunderload studio of those days -1986 to be accurate- but even the songs recorded in the new studio were treated analogically, the best way possible. Masterful production makes the album flawless in the way it sounds as a whole and as a result, this long-awaited comeback of HEAVY LOAD is a superbly built bridge connecting the past with the present. This is indeed an ABSOLUTE RETURN of the Swedish heavy metal pioneers, a 40th anniversary album that has it all; melody, strength, passion, memorable songwriting, marvelous orchestrations, enviable musicianship and yes, lots of Viking-themed lyrics!
The opening track “Ride the Night” is the very reason why all believers of steel love HEAVY LOAD: it’s lyrical, it’s powerful, it’s catchy and uplifting, full of excitement, euphoric in every sense!
Second track, “We Rock the World” is, as the title indicates, the absolute air-play song of old-school playfulness; simply irresistible!
Third comes “Valhalla Warriors”, the oldest song of the tracklist, an epic mid-tempo hymn with chorus of unmatched greatness and this bad-ass bass line right there in the middle, just before a slow, weeping solo takes our heart away… A masterpiece of simplicity, a trademark of HEAVY LOAD’s style – and, let’s admit it, of all TRUE masters of the Metal Art!
“Angel Dark” that follows is the song I least liked of all eight tracks, including “Butterfly Whisperings”, the bonus track of the CD edition. Not a bad one, not by any means. It just didn’t hit the right chords.
Next is “Slave No More”, the album’s longest song, recently composed together with “Raven is Calling” that follows. Both are among my personal favorites of the album’s tracklist. “Slave no More” is doomy, offering some haunting double-guitar work and emotional, tear-jerking singing by Styrbjörn, while “Raven is Calling” is faster and angrier with Ragne’s distinctive vocals still reigning supreme.
Last one is “Sail Away”, reminding one-and-only DIO in more ways than with its title. Classic stuff; excellent song to close the album.
Yet, as mentioned previously, there’s also “Butterfly Whisperings”, a CD bonus track. This serene acoustic piece of 7-minutes duration is a heartfelt curtain fall that I personally found deeply sincere and full of sentimental value.
As it seems, HEAVY LOAD are in great shape and very good mood. Wahlquist brothers (Ragne on vocals, lead guitars, keyboards and Styrbjörn on vocals and drums), Torbjörn Ragnesjö (bass) and Niclas Sunnerberg (guitars) prove to be a perfect four-piece band that we can only be grateful for the lifetime gift they made us bringing out this new album. And for the sake of heavy metal music, we hope for many more in the future!
It’s only with pure joy that one should welcome HEAVY LOAD’s “Riders of the Ancient Storm” because the mere fact that these so-called dinosaurs by the naive and the ingrate are still playing is reason enough for celebrating. And here’s why in three points of view:
First of all, without HEAVY LOAD there would be no starting point for Swedish metal scene, no origination of Viking-metal, no VENI DOMINE’s discography, no “Epicus, Doomics Metallicus” of CANDLEMASS -yes, it was recorded in Thunderload studio where also HAMMERFALL, YNGWIE MALMSTEEN and many other have worked with the Wahlquist brothers; so, please, show some respect, damn it!
Secondly, when the band heard that “Hard rock is dead!” almost half a century ago, they didn’t believe it, neither were they faint-hearted or frustrated. On the contrary, they gathered all the strength needed and went on chasing their dream. They knew their music was not dead and did whatever they could to deliver it to the world; and yes, they DID deliver!
Last of all, my own short story of meeting with HEAVY LOAD. Back when I was just a teenager and a lot into 70’s rock music – I still am! I don’t really remember how but I got to learn that Phil Lynott has happened to record a song with some Swedish metallers named HEAVY LOAD, just before his GRAND SLAM sessions and his untimely passing. I thought “Well, I have to check this out!”. It was “Free” off “Stronger than Evil”. As the story goes, it was Lynott himself that one day appeared at Thunderload studios while touring in Sweden, listening to the track and accepting more than willingly to play the bass for it! So, thank you Phil Lynott and thank you HEAVY LOAD for all the MAGIC – your music is immortal, your legacy priceless!
“Free, I can take the fight
We, we can make it right!”
The album will be released, October 6th on No Remorse Records. You can pre order it here.
You can check the discussion about the album in our forum pages, here.
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