Wednesday, September 21, 2011

ICS Vortex - Storm Seeker

ICS Vortex
Storm Seeker
Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

ICS Vortex is well known within the melodic black metal scene, with his vocals adding a unique touch to works from Arcturus, Borknagar and Dimmu Borgir. After being unceremoniously dismissed from Dimmu Borgir in 2009, the Norwegian (Oslo based) vocalist decided to finally take matters into his own hands and put together a long overdue solo album.
Two years later, and with the help of renowned drummer Asgeir Mickelson (Ex-Vintersorg/Scariot/Spiral Architect/Borknagar/Ihsahn/Lunaris) ICS Vortex (Whose real name is Simen Hestn├Žs, and who provides vocals, guitars, bass and keyboards to the album) has finally unveiled his highly anticipated solo effort ‘Storm Seeker’.
Given Vortex’s vast body of past musical works, it wouldn’t be far fetched to assume that ‘Storm Seeker’ would slot musically within the melodic black metal genre. But after a cursory listen through the album, it’s clear that Vortex isn’t remotely interested in playing things safe and predictable. Instead, ‘Storm Seeker’ is an adventurous and diverse offering that ventures into unlikely areas such as progressive rock and folk metal, with the end results as equally mixed as the musical soundscape on the album itself.
The album’s opening track ‘The Blackmobile’ is by far the album’s most metallic and heaviest offering, with its faster tempo, thick instrumentation, relentless double kick work from Mickelson and guest guitar solo contribution from Cyrus (Sarke/Susperia) giving the song it’s force and drive. As you would expect, Vortex’s vocals stand out as the primary focus throughout, with Vortex utilising the off kilter melodies that has since become his trademark to full capacity – And to great success.
‘Odin’s Tree’, which again features Cyrus on lead guitar, is another stand out cut with its heavier vibe and instrumentation. But whereas the opener veered a little toward the strange vocally, Vortex keeps things fairly melodic and straight forward here, which helps the song stand out as one of the album’s stronger and more accessible efforts.
From here, the album starts to venture into the strange and undiscovered, with ‘Skoal!’ leading the charge. The swirling Hammond organ (Provided by Arne Martinussen) adds a very folk vibe to the song, while Vortex’s melodies are stretched out at times, giving the song a very schizophrenic feel.
The unexpected classic rock feel of ‘Dogsmacked’ and ‘Windward’ was a little unexpected, but no less worthy (Which means they definitely stand out for all the right reasons in my book), while the Opeth tinged title track ‘Storm Seeker’ is an absolute gem, and a personal favourite.
Elsewhere, Vortex has decided to drift off more into the experimental side of things in terms of choral structures and instrumentation, with mixed results. In terms of tracks that miss, ‘Aces’, ‘Oil In Water’ and ‘When Shuffled Off’ aren’t necessarily disasters, but are by far the album’s weaker efforts. Whether it be vocals that don’t quite hit the mark (The former two mentioned efforts), or just uninspired and overly simplistic (The latter). But in terms of tunes that do work in their experimental state is the darker and moodier ‘Flaskeskipper’ and the bizarre Pink Floyd like instrumental closer ‘The Sub Mariner’.
In the end, ICS Vortex’s debut solo effort may have a couple of weak moments, but is nonetheless rewarding and captivating enough to reward those who are prepared to expect anything but the predictable melodic black metal path Vortex could have easily taken listeners.

For more information on ICS Vortex, check out - http://www.myspace.com/icsvortex

© Justin Donnelly