STORMRULER “Summon Forth The Storm”
By Dr. Abner Mality
A prophecy older than time foretold that one day a great wind would scour this land clean of filth and impurity. The wind would come from a city at the center of the land, a city beneath a great arch of steel. And riding forth in the vanguard of this tempest would be two warriors of grim and mighty aspect. They would march forth under the banner of STORMRULER!
The city is St. Louis and the band STORMRULER is Jason Asberry and Jesse Schobel. The tempest they create is epic black metal so cold and majestic that the grim gods of Scandinavia look down upon them in favor. Honestly, their new album “Sacred Rites and Black Magick” is a total revelation and transports listeners to an alternate world of dark fantasy and high adventure...something far removed from the banal digitized hell of the modern world.
I therefore set forth on a quest to learn more of STORMRULER and so spoke to drummer/synth-magician Jesse Schobel. Heed now his words…
WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Greetings and hails to STORMRULER! I’m amazed that a band with such an epic sound emanates from St. Louis, MO. What exactly was it that lit the fuse of STORMRULER and drove you to this form of music?
JESSE SCHOBEL: The impetus for the creation of the first album "Under the Burning Eclipse" was simply us hanging around lamenting that no one was making black metal like they used to. Jason and I decided to make an album just for fun, no strings attached, just write and record it in our own time. We wanted to invoke the war-like spirit of bands that we felt truly embodied the style. There was a lot of elements we wanted to express, and by the time we had written a handful of tunes, we were confident it was gonna be a killer record.
WC: Did you guys have any prior band experience and if so, was it in a similar vein to STORMRULER?
JS: Yeah, we both have a bunch of other bands. Jason plays drums in two bands, BASTARD and HARKONIN, and can bust out pretty much any, shall we say, WESTERN style at will on guitar, banjo, mandolin and probably more! I (Jesse) play drums and synths in a power metal band called ORACLE, a death metal band called CAST THE STONE, and occasionally play with a black metal band called XAEMORA that Jason also sometimes plays guitar. I have a long-time-dormant-but-sometimes-surfacing band called LEGEND who released an EP called "Charging the Field". I also played drums on the first SCOUR record, the “Grey” EP. There is more stuff too...what can we say, we just like to jam!
WC: The band is listed as a duo. Will this always be the case for the band or are you open to adding members to the project?
JS: Tough to say at this early stage still, but, for now at least, the two man system is really convenient most of the time.
WC: Being that STORMRULER has two actual members, does this mean that the band is strictly a studio project or is there some possibility for live work down the road?
JS: We have played a bunch of shows so far, a couple short runs around the South/Midwest USA, and did the Devastation on the Nation tour earlier in 2022. We will be going to Europe in early 2023 with CANNIBAL CORPSE, DARK FUNERAL and INGESTED.
WC: Two bands that come to mind when listening to you are DISSECTION and IMMORTAL. But what other, maybe less obvious influences do you have? Do you pull from classical/cinematic sources as well as metal?
JS: Those are certainly two big influences for us, yeah. I'd say the biggest inspiration for the band's music came from 2 lesser known Swedish bands, ALLEGIANCE and DAWN, with some SUMMONING and EMPEROR thrown in for good measure. On the second album, "Sacred Rites and Black Magic" there's a bit more of the DISSECTION type of riffs and structure. MARDUK influence abounds, as well as some AMON AMARTH for the adventurous riffs.
WC: On “Sacred Rites and Black Magick”, there is just as much emphasis on the shorter “interlude” tracks as there is on the longer “main” songs. How do you compose these kind of tracks and how important is it that they all have their own identity?
JS: I compose the interlude tracks here in my basement studio. I try not to make them too long, just enough of a break to bring a new vibe in. Sometimes they have themes that will be played in the next song, sometimes they are their own mini-piece, and sometimes just an unsettling or strange ambience. With "Sacred Rites..." we thought it would be cool to have a couple guitar interlude ideas as well. Also, in a LIVE setting, it's really cool to play these tracks before the songs associated with them. It creates a cool tension that you can feel. Now, you say there is "...just as much emphasis" on these short pieces as the full tracks, but that's not really true. They are actually wee bit shorter on this new record as a whole.
WC: Did you conceive of “Sacred Rites and Black Magick” all at once or did it come together in bits and pieces over a longer period of time?
JS: We started writing the songs for it shortly after the completion of "Under the...", and continued composing it throughout 2021 and early '22, recording it that February. It was coming together really well, and we were pleased.
WC: Looking at the lyrics, some are inspired by high fantasy and others by history. Is there a thread connecting the more fantasy-inspired tracks?
JS: No real thread connects them, other than them all having to do with some dark fantasy vibes as you said. There's two songs about Bloodborne, a Skyrim song or two, a Roman history lesson, a few original conjurings, and a song whose lyrics were inspired by the Stormlight Archive books. Oh, and a few Dark Souls themed tracks.
WC: The world we live in now seems so crass and dominated by mindless consumerism, I sense a certain longing for the simpler and more character-driven days of old in STORMRULER. How do you put yourself in the mindset to write and compose for the band? Do you enter a state where the “real” world seems to vanish into the background?
JS: Well, in my basement studio, the sunlight is unable to penetrate, so I guess that helps keep the real world at bay. We kind of just get into the song, and visualize what directions it could take, should take, and probably will take. Is there a feeling of escapism? I think so, with most black metal there is some kind of trance-like state that can be reached within the swirl of buzzsaw riffs and tremolo leads. That's what drew us to it in the first place.
WC: I would imagine you are heavily influenced by works of high fantasy. What are some of your “go-to” fantasy works? Does it go beyond the more typical Tolkien and Martin inspirations?
JS: I have delved into a few worlds in my day...the dark elf trilogy, The Wheel of Time (twice), Dune and other cool Sci Fi like The Expanse and BattleStar G. I miss Stargate SG-U... I think as far as cool lore goes, The Soulsborne games blow my mind.
WC: Right now I’m reading some of Tad Williams’ books of Osten Ard. This dark character on your cover art sure seems to be Ineluki the Storm King from those books. Who is the character and what does the art represent?
JS: The Bannered Rider is simply a cool character that our artist, Giannis Nakos came up with. He just looks like a bad friggin' dude, like a harbinger of evil or a brutal boss fight. We are proud to have him as our "mascot".
WC: Is there one particular track on the new album that you are drawn to more than the others? One that you think sums up STORMRULER the best?
JS: I'd like to point out to anyone to not sleep on the track "Along the Appian Way". It represents us well and has one of the catchiest riffs in our catalog, right near the middle of the song.
WC: Have you thought ahead to what comes after “Sacred Rites and Black Magick”? Any ideas for the next album?
JS: No concrete ideas as of yet, but the storm cauldron is always a-bubblin'. When the time is right, the dark aura shall again return…
WC: What was the last release you listened to just for your own enjoyment?
JS: I shit you not, right now I'm listening to QUEENSRYCHE "Empire". Before that it was PYRAMAZE "Immortals" and "Legend of the Bone Carver" back to back.
WC: If you could ask any three people from history to dinner, who would they be?
JS: Neil Peart, Alex Lifeson, and Geddy Lee. I know two of them are still alive...does that matter though?
WC: Any last words for the faithful? Thanks for talking to us!
JS: Check out the new record, check out the old record, and tell the people you work with and your family members who have no interest in black metal that they are missing out! Come see the Storm Boys live if we are in the vicinity, and try to drag said non-interested parties to the show as well. Then, buy them all shots and beers so we sound better!