Genre: Epic Metal
Country: Canada / International
Label: Cruz Del Sur Music
Epic metallers SMOULDER return with hotly-anticipated second album. Four years have already passed since the release of their «Times of Obscene Evil and Wild Daring», debut and now they are back with «Violent Creed of Vengeance», an album featuring seven sword & sorcery Epic Metal hymns.
I have been studying the music of SMOULDER very closely since their 2018 demo days, taking notice of a band that was delivering a very well performed mixture of Heavy, Epic and Doom Metal. The songwriting, the solid riffing, the magnificent lead parts and of course the extremely inspired vocal melodies of Sarah Ann, brought to the foreground a talented band having some great music to share. And yes the above features were pretty much the case also on the original material that was included on their «Dream Quest Ends» EP that was released back in 2020.
The debut album had an unexpected success, generating a smaller -or bigger- hype around the band’s name. Despite the above situation the band’s creative engines were remaining on… SMOULDER (rounded out by guitarists S. Vincent and Collin Wolf, bassist Adam Blake and drummer Kevin Hester) closely targeted their next full length release: Their main goal, and their main battle. During 2022, Sarah Ann and S. Vincent moved to Finland from their native Canada, but not wanting to leave anything to chance, SMOULDER ensured that their second album was entirely written and meticulously rehearsed before joining the production team of Valtteri Kallio and Jani Snellmain in July 2022 in Espoo, Finland.
On «Violent Creed of Vengeance» we can witness the overall metamorphosis of SMOULDER’s music that has been taken to the very next level: An extremely well performed mixture of Epic Metal that is now delivered under the formulas of technical US Power Metal riffing, combined with selected musical pieces that highlight the obscure Heavy Metal realm, leaving some well calculated space even for some 70s pounding steel as well.
The vocals of Sarah Ann are still the band’s ultimate trademark -both the color voice and the particular vocal melodies that she is using-. Thanks to the way that Sarah sings and thanks the balancing of the vocal parts on the overall mix, the listener will come across this very special feeling of listening a totally unknown singer, singing on one of those 80s ultra obscure demos, carrying this very special voice color and sounding almost out of this world. Everyone wants to learn more about this singer, but he / she have disappeared from this earth after the recordings. The Epic Metal nerds out there would totally get my point.
The tempos are faster, the main riffs are more technical -compared to the band’s previous works- highlighting on the very same time an almost chaotic but so focused and into the point approaching, reminding me the mighty DECEIVER OF THE BLIND. Many bands came into my mind and can be pointed as influences into this masterpiece: From the majesty of the mighty 70s era RAINBOW, to the great works of bands like CHASTAIN, LIEGE LORD, ENCHANTER (from Michigan, US) and TALES OF MEDUSA.
The most careful listeners will also discover a great touch of the obscure sound mystery that EZRA BROOKS -the Heavy / Epic Metal project of SMOULDER’s guitarist S. Vincent– are carrying. This kind of magic has been somehow transferred to the newly composed SMOULDER material.
Those who may still wonder about the Doom Metal parts that were always a reference in SMOULDER’s music, I can assure that you will be able to hear some slower riffing in some parts of the songs and there are also some notable classic Heavy Metal riffs delivered on a pounding mid tempo way, but the main frame of this release is based on faster tempos, more technical and complex riffing and a wide blessing of epic obscurity that offers to the material its main identification.
The legendary Michael Whelan (CIRITH UNGOL) once again handled the cover art. Whelen’s artwork helped shape the album’s theme of vengeance, particularly Sarah Ann’s very pointed lyrics about taking revenge on misogynists and rapists, their enablers and the indifference of those who excuse such behavior.
Of course there is an infusion of sword & sorcery literature and films that inspired this album, including a very special guest appearance from «The Eternal Champion» author, Michael Moorcock on the «Victim of Fate» song which is one of my favorites in here. Listen to Moorcock’s introductory narration and you can also make the connection to the «Wizard Blew His Horn» narration from the «Warrior on the Edge of Time» HAWKWIND 1975 classic, like I did. And here I got to point that the overall vibe of the album -from the song’s titles, to the front cover and many parts of the music of course- is carrying this 70s obscure epic touch. You can feel it in the air.
I will not go on the process to point any particular song from this release because I definitely put it to my «all killer no filler» list. I just want to add that there is a wonderful job done for the overall production of the album (it was mixed by Arthur Rizk and mastered by Roland Rodas at Cavern of Echoes).
This is a masterpiece of Mystical Epic Metal: skull crushing, magical and chaotic. Go and get it NOW.
This album will ring all the bells and whistles to the Epic Metal nerds out there giving a serious sense to their life for the next months. Yeah I mean the REAL nerds. The ones who dive into the mystical realm, going through a -not understood by the rest- ultra-analysis of albums, books and films focusing on non existing -or perhaps existing- worlds, battles and heroes, while trying to discover the last forgotten recording on the last -mainly USA- neighborhood, as they try to satisfy their thirst for Steel. Those who are waking up on Sunday morning, ordering a cappuccino, sitting in front of their packed with records and books shelves, in front of an old dying PC, in order to write and discuss about the new SMOULDER masterpiece.