Review: Surma “The Light Within” [Metal Blade Records]

Review: Surma “The Light Within” [Metal Blade Records]

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Recently the cult label Metal Blade has decided to sign the contract with a new band Surma, the product of Heri Joensen from Týr and Viktorie Surmøvá (Bohemian Metal Rhapsody), and in November their debut album “The Light Within” was released. Surma firmly adheres to the symphonic metal standards with a slight touch of the cheerful power metal and sophisticated progressive rock.

Surma is an international project, songstress Victoria is from Czechia, Heri hails from the Faroe Islands, but their bass-guitarist is from Netherlands. And the guest musicians are also from different countries, the drummer Andrey Ischenko resides in Russia, but the orchestral arrangements belong to Danish Lars Vinther. So this multinational band has provided this album with a wide range of diversity for such a monotonous musical style. Heri is responsible for the writing and arrangements, but Viktoria composed all the lyrics. Of course, here Heri was able to dig deeper into symphonic and epic wilderness, because his main band Týr sticks too strongly to folk metal principles with progressive spirit. But the singer Surma shared her optimism through her lyrics, but not without a point, this conceptual album has a common theme of overcoming hardships, and every song (except “Desire” and “Until It Rains Again”) has its own story, inspired by sculptures (cover art also creatively emphasizes the importance of sculptures on this record). So this peculiar experience also enriched the lush layers of musical journey of Surma.

This album shrieks with optimism, even the sad and melancholic ballads are full of hope and liveliness, and epic and symphonic arrangements increase this joyous mood. The power metal base isn’t rare thing on “The Light Within”, the spry heavy/power atmosphere is very uplifting (especially on songs “Reveal the Light Within” or “The City of Winds”), making the symphonic solemness more down-to-earth. But progressive elements pop up from time to time during this album, and the most progressive songs also remind a bit of Heri‘s folk metal band Týr (like “Reveal the Light Within” and “Downfall”). The epicness isn’t too complicated matter for Surma, the most symphonic elements are also the most primitive ones, based on one or too strong guitar riffs with some choir on the background.

The first album of Surma is moderately diverse, there are fast and fervent power metal anthems, serious mid-tempo sympho creations and beautiful and romantic ballads. Some songs are performed in a more modern style (like “Until It Rains Again” and “Cages of Rage”), but the overall perception isn’t spoiled by these alternative elements. The technicality is obtained by separate parts, for example, through guitar solos of Heri (“Downfall” or “Lost to Time”), so there’s no such an idea like common progressive aura. The sound of guitars is very harmonic and melodic, and Joensen also brightened up some of the songs with his well-known sonorous voice (and he even growls on “Like the River flows”). But of course, the real jewel on “The Light Within” is the tender and strong voice of Viktoria. Sometimes she sings too impersonally, some of the songs lack real emotions and feelings, but her professionalism and wonderful voice-range compensates these drab moments. And there are some songs, where she really surprises the listeners with experimental manner of singing (“The Selkie (Kópakonan)”). But all these tiny setbacks are really insignificant, because this conceptual album has a very powerful spirit and harmonious wholeness.

Surma stormed the symphonic metal scene with a vigorous alacrity, so the reserved orchestral background and the catchy metal foundation with the beautiful female voice and integral arrangements have really proved their effectiveness.

Release date: November 6th, 2020

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About the author

I am into metal music from the school times, started from traditional genres, and now exploring the experimental scene. I'm also interested in modern architecture and contemporary art.

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