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Vesperian Sorrow: Stormwinds of ages

15/05/12  ||  Sokaris

There really isn’t any justice in music. I’ve been a fan of metal for most of my life and specifically a fan of symphonic black metal for about a decade. Vesperian Sorrow has been on my radar for a while but I’ve not properly checked them out before. I’d maybe see a mention here or there and I’m sure I’ve heard a track or two but I’ve not delved into much of their material before. Maybe their being an American symphonic black metal subconsciously put me off of the notion. As an American, I can confidently state that we’re not very good at black metal in general, mostly delivering either brain-dead derivative shlock or up-its-own-ass neckbearded hipster garbage. American symphonic black metal? Well, Ceremonial Castings is pretty kickass and… that’s about it. Interestingly enough probably our best representative in the darker, tremolo-picked realm of metal is Absu, another Texas band. Anyway, as I said there’s no justice in music. If Vesperian Sorrow has been putting out albums like this I should’ve had them shoved in my face way more by now. They should be playing support for Cradle, Dark Funeral, Dimmu or Marduk when they come through instead of fucken Abigail Williams.

Okay, obviously I’m rallying for these guys but I suppose I owe it to the Global Domination readers to explain why. Well, “Stormwinds of Ages” is a huge, rich and exciting musical journey that lasts nearly an hour without being tedious or losing its effect. It manages to reach back and pull the best elements from the emergence of symphonic black’s more influential bands while sounding modern. There’s diversity within each instrument. Vocals range from a midrange shriek to lower growls to clean vocal spots of both genders (hell, “Relics of the impure” even features some Halford-esque falsettos). The guitar provides catchy tremolo riffs, more spacious power-chord work that allows the keyboards to come through, bold lead guitar and bombastic melodies. Bass adds extra depth to the sound and the drums keep things interesting, constantly changing beats and adding fills as the songs ebb and flow. The overall sound is mostly semi-cinematic and epic-sounding but Vesperian Sorrow take a lot of left-hand turns with some extremely melodic guitar work (even a pair of neo-classical solos provided by Winds, ex-Arcturus axeman Carl August Tidemann) more straightforward heavy sections and plenty of climactic build-ups. A lot of songs feature layers of melodies, making repeated listens enjoyable once you get past the initial over-the-toppedness of it all. The keyboards sit well in the mix without drowning out the guitars or other instruments. The production in general is extremely impressive especially considering the band handled it themselves. Speaking of the extra aspects of this album, “Stormwinds of Ages” is presented in a foldout digipak graced with gloomy and fitting artwork which is a nice bonus. That sort of attention to detail is the backbone of what makes the music so engaging.

Any complaints I have are pretty minor. With the production as good as it is I’m a little let down by some of the keyboard sounds. The strings sound a bit brittle; a more lush effect would’ve worked better. The drums are just a little too clean for my tastes. Neither is a deal breaker and this is basically just nitpicking on a couple areas that could be improved. I’m hoping next album there’ll be even more risks in the songwriting as the unexpected shifts generally end up being the most memorable passages.

Well-written, entertaining and nuanced. If you don’t like melodic modern black with plenty of keyboards this won’t change your mind but if you do then this will likely be one of the year’s best pieces of music.

8,5

  • Information
  • Released: 2012
  • Label: The Path Less Travelled Records
  • Website: www.vesperiansorrow.net
  • Band
  • Donn Donni: vocals
  • William: guitars
  • JZD: guitars
  • Justin M.: bass
  • Subverseraph: keyboards
  • Kristoph: drums, keyboards
  • Tracklist
  • 01. Sanguis vitam est
  • 02. Stormwinds of ages
  • 03. An empire to mourn
  • 04. Casting dawn into shadow
  • 05. Crown of glass
  • 06. Legacies befallen
  • 07. Eye of the clocktower
  • 08. Oracle from the ashes
  • 09. Relics of the impire
  • 10. Death she cried
  • 11. Of opiates and accolades