|3.7 (1 votes):|
The Italian atmospheric black metal project, Blaze of Sorrow, is aptly named. The ‘blaze’ of venomous percussion that underscores their latest record, Absentia, recalls the classic heavy metal fervor that typified much of the first half of the 1990s but is evenly balanced by dense, riveting atmospheres that imbue the whole with a wistful melancholy – hence the ‘sorrow’. Couple this with a folksy lyricism and melodic touch, all finished with just enough lo-fi authenticity and the net result is a win for Eisenwald.
It really is the aforementioned drum section that truly stands out on Absentia, though; the shimmery gothic rock melodies, the rasped vocals, the layered arrangements… all these are worthy hallmarks, but fail to drive the point home when viewed individually. Holistically, however, bound by this stirring rhythm foundation, Blaze of Sorrow surpass their historic meekness and make their presence known. Sadly, the final mix lends itself more to the guitars than the drums, which is a pity given the sensitive, inventive and downright clever percussion we are treated to across the album. Consequently, Absentia leans far more to the orthodox than the post end of the black metal spectrum, unlike prior albums like 2011’s Eterno Tramonto or 2008’s L’ultimo Respiro. And this is no bad thing at all. While these earlier releases may have enjoyed some favorable comparisons to the likes of Agalloch, Absentia moves more in the direction of the Portland legends’ post break-up band, Pillorian – itself a heavier, more focused unit than its earlier incarnation.
The other notable achievement for Blaze of Sorrow is a more personal one: until recently, I judged all Italian atmospheric black metal by the unfair yardstick of Selvans, whose trio of records (Clangores Plenilunio, Lupercalia and Faunalia) over the 2015 – 2018 period number among the finest atmospheric folk metal ever recorded, in my opinion. After Absentia, however, I have had to reassess this judgment to allow for Blaze of Sorrow in the comparison process. While the musical output by these two artists is vastly different, their history speaks of stylistic similarity and inspiration and the new interpretations by both is a delight.
That said, there are still criticisms – but these are common to practically every atmospheric/melancholic act out there. Songs are not quite Wolves In The Throne Room long, but still fairly lengthy affairs and the overriding doom ‘n gloom makes for a one-sided argument in terms of tone. Despite some variance in the form of acoustic passages (a throwback to Blaze of Sorrow’s past) like in “Cupo Dissolvi” the arrangement, mixing and overall treatment can become monotonous with repeated listening. Even so, songs like “Furia” and “Hybris” deliver focused, hard-hitting results that play to the strengths of black metal with folk-inspired tremolo riffing, contrasting content and great pacing. While Absentia is not quite my favorite record so far for 2020, it is definitely my favorite for Blaze of Sorrow.
Release date: April 24th, 2020
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