1.13.2013 JOSH MORTENSEN – Norrok claims to be “classically-infused rock,” yet they are only a few double-bass kicks away from bona fide power metal. If one were to take European neoclassical power metal and play it through the resources and style of 1970’s rock, Norrok’s Bloodstone would be the result. In other words, this album sounds like Rainbow if had they experienced prophetic visions of Stratovarius. Of course, attempting to describe the band’s sound isn’t completely straightforward, as Norrok often journeys into the progressive side of things with fully-instrumental pieces that drift into spiritual voyages accompanied by Brett Bryant’s beautiful keyboard arrangements. As for the guitar work, Brad Sumpter is heavily inspired by the early neoclassical guitar gods like Ritchie Blackmore, Randy Rhoads, Uli Jon Roth, and Yngwie Malmsteen. While Sumpter’s fingerboard magic doesn’t feature the blazing speed of those notable guitarists above, he makes up for it with truly memorable phrasing in his lead sections and catchy riffing in the rhythms. For instance, the opening heavy metal riff on “Portrait of Destiny” is just downright brilliant while the harmonized leads perfectly blend classical modes and heavy metal.
Sumpter and Bryant are the main songwriters for Bloodstone and even shared duties on the bass guitar. For vocals and percussion, they turned to guest performers to fill in the gaps. The drums were recorded by both Brendon Speas and Graham Haworth, while three different friends of Norrok took care of the vocal duties. Tim Dahlen from the band Slugworth sings on the opening track “Victim of Life.” His range is noticeably that of a tenor, and his voice is melodic and high like Rush’s Geddy Lee, yet features a grittier side akin to the former Rainbow vocalist Graham Bonnet. The second guest singer on Bloodstone is Joe Hanisko from Grind 5280, and his voice blends well with the 1970’s-style rock on “Darkness Falls.” Finally, vocalist Kevin Allen, who might remind listeners of Jeff Scott Soto from Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force, sings on the tracks “Pompeii” and “Lost Time,” the latter being the highlight of his vocal talents.
While Power Metal USA can be strict when selecting albums for review, the fact that Norrok might be on the lighter side of things doesn’t mean they are going to be passed up. Firstly, they hail from Colorado, which is Power Metal USA’s founding state, and secondly, with just a tad more speed and heavier drumming, Norrok could easily stand alongside some of the European greats. The song “Lost Time” will surely be the favorite for many of those who enjoy power metal, as it is melodic in nature and the lyrics reference Saxons, Vikings, and Romans. On the other hand, tracks like “Darkness Falls” and “Pompeii” might attract fans of classic rock. Either way, Bloodstone isn’t tightly jammed into one particular genre’s shelf space, so the album should be accessible to fans of many types of music.
Speaking from a power metal fan’s point-of-view, the only shortcoming on the album is the small absence of vocals across the board, which consequently gives the impression that Norrok may prefer to get lost in long, transcendent instrumentals rather than focusing on catchy heavy metal tracks with shattering vocals like “Lost Time” and “Victim of Life.” Nevertheless, it’s likely that Norrok will respond to feedback from the press and produce an even better sophomore album, as their biography reports that Sumpter and Bryant have known each other since elementary school. For now, take a breath of fresh air and check out Bloodstone—it’s not to be missed!
Norrok – “Lost Time”