CD Review: “Reader Of The Runes-Divination” by Elvenking

Elvenking unleash a potent spell of folk metal on its tenth release, Reader Of The Runes-Divination. “Perthro” is a brief piece that opens the album. “Perthro” is the rune of fate and the unknowable. The tribal drums, sorrowful violins and droning vocals convey a sense of mystery and adventure. “Heathen Divine” is an exuberant track with crushing riffs and driving percussion. Guitarists Aydan and Rafahel lay out some great harmonies and solos throughout this track. “Divination” continues the lively tone of this record with a fast tempo and sweeping violins. This is an anthemic track with its hardy chorus and Rafahel’s energetic vocals. The smooth transition in to a tight groove makes this a enjoyable track from start to finish. “The Misfortune Of Virtue” is one of the heaviest tracks on Reader with its melodic death metal riffs and pounding Lancs’ pulverizing drums. Still, there are tranquil moments during the song’s chorus with its lush keyboards and saccharine vocals. The song seamlessly transitions from heavy to soft while maintaining its dark character. “Under The Sign Of The Black Star” is a grandiose track with its baroque guitar riffs and lumbering bass. The music paints a picture of a group on horseback traveling the countryside at night on a quest. “Reader Of The Runes-Book 1” is a near 11 minute epic that concludes the album in splendid fashion. The regal riffs and Aydan’s soaring vocals are underscored by a mid tempo that slows down for the melodramatic chorus. Blastbeats and black metal riffing kickoff the second half of the track before an acoustic guitar relaxes the intense atmosphere. An excellent end to this record that leaves the listener wanting to hear “Book 2.”

Reader Of The Runes is epic, symphonic metal that takes the listener on a journey. Elvenking play lively and passionately throughout the album, throwing out numerous surprises. Each track is lush and textured with several things going on at once but never sounding awkward or pretentious. This is attributed to the brevity of the songs and the album’s overall song order. Production wise, Reader is stellar, with clear quality and excellent guitar and drum tones.

Elvenking cast the right spell with its tenth record. Reader Of The Runes-Divination is a fun, heavy, adventurous record of the highest degree. Fans of symphonic, folk or power metal will certainly enjoy this record with its great musicianship and songwriting. Bravo Elvenking.

Check out the band’s official website here:

https://www.elvenking.net/

CD Review: “Arcane Astral Aeons” by Sirenia

Sirenia gets right to business on its ninth effort, Arcane Astral Aeons, with the crushing “In Styx Embrace”. The driving guitar riffs and grooving percussion meld well with the orchestral elements. We are even treated to blast beats before transitions to an acoustic passage before concluding in bombastic fashion.

Album single “Into The Night” is a mid tempo rocker with a catchy chorus and some splendid keyboard work. Guitarist Morten Veland unleashes a blistering solo that concludes too soon. “Love Like Cyanide” is the initial single off Astral, with a pumping percussion underneath choppy, classically inspired guitar riffs. Vocalist Emmanuelle Zoldan sounds both powerful and vulnerable here, as she laments about toxic love. The track’s midsection is notable for its gothic chorus and tight groove.

“Desire” has a thick galloping riff that accentuates Zoldan’s sultry vocals. She even sings a passage in French over a playful melody before the song kicks back in to high gear with a stomping guitar riff and a black metal interlude.

“Asphyxia” commences with a dissonant guitar riff and a dark ambient electronic sample that segues in to a sludgy guitar riff. There is greater use of industrial and electronica samples on this song, making it an interesting listen.

“The Voyage” is aptly named as its rollicking guitars symbolize a vessel moving to and fro across a hostile sea. This is a dynamic, heavy track with a howling arabesque guitar lead that accentuates the adventurous tone on this track.

Arcane Astral Aeons is 55 minutes long, but there are few dull spots on this record. The album’s 11 tracks are diverse, yet cohesive. This is attributed to several elements of black metal and grooving rhythms appearing throughout the album. Thus, Astral is not monotonous, but there is an aura of similarity to each track. I have said numerous times that symphonic and progressive metal bands have to make extra strides to avoid pretentious and wayward songs. Well, Sirenia have avoided the trap with ease. Zoldan’s grandiose vocals are superb as usual and the guitar riffs are thick and pack a wallop.

Ultimately, Astral is a crushing record with a nice blend of orchestral and electronica samples. Fans will certainly enjoy it as the band’s signature sound is intact with a new black metal element that makes it heavier. Sirenia continue to reach the stars.

Check out the band’s official website for news and tour dates:

http://sirenia.no/

CD Review: “Alba” by Sleeping Romance

Sleeping Romance’s sophomore effort, Alba, is prime with heavy riffs and soaring operatic vocals. “Where The Light Is Bleeding” is a crushing track with pounding guitar riffs interspersed with piano and strings that accentuates the somber mood of this song. “Lost In My Eyes” is a fast paced catchy tune with intricate guitar harmonies that are both beautiful and haunting. Vocalist Federica Lanna’s voice is so serene yet powerful as she sings of fighting to uncover the truth. “Touch The Sun” continues the theme of self-discovery and determination. Musically, the song is groove oriented and features horns during the track’s midsection. “Forgiveness” is one of the longest songs on Alba and the centerpiece. A song about a scorned former lover, the emotional content of the lyrics makes way for a musical roller coaster of baroque riffs and guitar virtuosity. “Across The Sea” is a placid ballad that paints a picture of a crew resting for the night as the ship sails to its next destination. The title track is the penultimate song and barges in like an army through the gates of its enemy’s castle. The rolling percussion crashes like a battering ram while the guitars are lockstep in the melee. The unorthodox rhythm changes on the song add to the chaos making this a thrilling track from beginning to end.

This record is notable for its superb musicianship and songwriting. I have stated numerous times that symphonic and power metal bands are infamous for crafting pretentious compositions that go nowhere. That is not the case on Alba, as the songs are catchy but maintain a degree of complexity. The duel guitar attack of Truzzi Federico and Fabrizio Incao is both pulverizing and grandiose. Lanna’s vocals are strong and coherent and complements the sonic assault backing her.

Alba is a very good record and perfect for the season. There is a cold, rigid emotion on this album which makes it suitable for the Autumn and Winter. The album is somewhat accessible for casual fans of metal, although some tracks are fairly heavy. That being said, fans of Delain, Xandria or Serenity should definitely check this album out.

For news and tour dates check out the band’s website:

http://www.sleeping-romance.com/

CD Review: “Deep Calleth Upon Deep” by Satyricon

Legendary Norwegian black metal duo Satyricon are back with Deep Calleth Upon Deep, its ninth studio album. “Midnight Serpent” opens with a rollicking guitar riff over a demonic circus of blast beats. It is evil black n’ roll with Satyr’s harsh vocals sounding like a priest at a black mass. Frost’s drumming is superb with constant, yet seamless tempo changes that never sound out of place. A strong track and definitely one of the best songs Satyricon has made. Praise is also due to “Blood Cracks Open The Ground” which is notable for its simple guitar riff but complex drumming. The drums tremble and heave like an earthquake, complementing the title. The hopeless ambiance of “To Your Brethren In The Dark” encircles the listener with its doom like melody and dissonant guitar. This song requires repeated listening as there is something enrapturing in its sadness. “The Ghost Of Rome” is perhaps a tribute to the band’s namesake, an Ancient Roman novel written in the first century. It is fairly uptempo as the guitar hastens to keep up with the percussion and is not as dark as the previous tracks. Yet, it still fits the album with its haunting background female chants. Black n’ Roll meets progressive metal on the seven minute long “Black Wings and Withering Doom.” Satyr’s playing transitions from sumptuous to infernal, conveying a hellish majesty.

Deep Calleth Upon Deep is a fusion of black metal and hard rock spattered with progressive elements. Satyricon’s uncompromising attitude allows the band to experiment with its sound free of worrying whether people will consider it “true black metal.” This record is equal parts rocking as well as introspective and dark. It requires repeated listens to grasp the gamut of emotions running through this album. The title of this album suits it as there are musical and emotional layers to this record.

Well, Satyricon did not disappoint with its newest album in four years. Deep Calleth Upon Deep is a well crafted record, with each song offering something enjoyable to the listener. While Satyr’s medical condition may put the band’s future in jeopardy, if this is Satyricon’s final album, the band goes out on a high and victorious note.

For news and tour dates, check out the band’s official website:

http://www.satyricon.no/

CD Review: “Dim Days Of Dolor” by Sirenia

Sirenia’s newest release, Dim Days Of Dolor, is a majestic journey of heavy twists and melodic turns. This record marks the debut of Emmanuelle Zoldan as lead female vocalist. Zoldan has sung back-up with Sirenia for 13 years, making her familiar with the band and its sound. Her mezzo-soprano vocals are a major highlight on this record as they soar but never overshadow the songs. The opening track “Goddess of the Sea” sways back and forth like a ship at sea with its lumbering riffs. Zoldan’s operatic vocals are powerful and match the crushing music accompanying her. The title track is a fusion of symphonic metal and electronica bordering on pop metal. It is a bit surprising that this track is not the album’s initial single due to its accessibility and commercial appeal. “The 12th Hour” is the initial single for Dim Days, which is interesting as it is the longest track on the record and one of the heaviest. There is a strong death metal vibe on this song due to band founder Morten Veland’s shrieking vocals. “Cloud Nine” is another hard hitter with its staccato riffs and hammering drums. The choir sample fits well on this track adding to its heaviness. Album closer “Aeon’s Embrace” is a sorrowful piano ballad with Zoldan’s melancholic vocals underscoring the sadness on this song.

Dim Days of Dolor is a varied album that showcases Morten Veland’s musical abilities. He successfully blends heavy metal, electronica and symphonic music to stunning effect. However, Zoldan’s vocals accentuate the emotions on each track, giving the music greater impact. The production is bombastic which is suitable for an album like Dim Days. The riffs, samples and of course the vocals are pushed to the forefront but the sound is clear and never choppy or noisy.

Fans of Sirenia and symphonic metal should purchase Dim Days of Dolor. It is an epic record with solid songs and incredible musicianship. The album’s 56 minute length is not tedious as there is little to no filler on this album. Zoldan’s vocals are superb throughout the record, and fit well on each track. There is nothing dim or sorrowful about this record and it is more than worth a listen.

For news and tour dates, check out the band’s website: http://www.mortenveland.com/sirenia/