Type: CD Company: Independent Release: 2017 Genre: Black Reviewer: Greg Watson Published: 4/18/2017
Black metal that could provide the soundtrack for a new LOTR movie
Sojourner is a band that sticks out in the atmospheric black metal genre for several reasons. First is the fact that they churn out some really impressive ABM that is infused with folk and new age elements that all form a very cohesive, massive sound that sucks you in and keeps you rapt throughout the course of 'Empires of Ash'. Second are the hauntingly beautiful vocals of Chloe Bray, whose voice is reminiscent of Enya and who adds a whole different layer to the album itself. Lastly, the production on 'Empires of Ash' is something that really helps this album stand out from the others.
While most albums in this genre tend to have pretty well polished production, what makes this one stand out is the way that it takes elements like the odd instrument choices, the two distinct vocal styles, and the sound as whole and really blends them together in a very grandiose yet organic soundscape that is meant to whisk you off to lands undiscovered. The aformentioned Bray who also handles guitar and tin whistle, Mike Lamb who handles drums/guitars/piano/synth, bassist Mike Wilson and third vocalist Emilio Crespo comprise Sojourner. Their vision, desire, and passion clearly come through your speakers on each and every track.
I won't pretend to know when Lamb or Crespo are handling vocal duties but the black metal vocals are classic, spiteful and all that you hope for when you get a BM release. The subtle hints of piano and tin whistle mesh really well with the harsh guitars, blasting drums and thundering bass and create this atmosphere of joy and dread that interplay off one another throughout. Even when the black metal elements are going full tilt and you have the more worldly music used as a minor layer, you really feel as though you are venturing through The Shire or are staring down the gate of Mordor. The cinematic quality of the more refined musical parts lend this an incredibly epic feel and give 'Empires' a great balance that this genre uses to great effect.
I have come back to this album several times after listening to it on a single run through and this one will be in my rotation for months to come. People might be put off by the length of the album, which clocks in just under an hour with the seven tracks, or by the fact that it isn't traditional black metal. Listen to it, go in with an open mind and tell me you aren't moved in some small way after journeying through the 'Empires of Ash' because I know I felt and continue to feel something every time I play this album.
About this Writer: Greg Watson // Greg Watson has been hooked on the loud and heavy sounds since the summer of 1994 when he first heard the opening notes of "Operation: Mindcrime" by Queensryche. Since then his tastes have expanded and grown like the ever evolving heavy metal tree of genres. He has been an active member of Maximum Metal off and on for 10 years. In his spare time, Greg enjoys deciding the fate of his loyal subjects in the realm of Skyrim and secretly playing air keyboard to "Separate Ways" by Journey when no one is watching. He currently resides in Roanoke, VA with his wife and his metal wannabe beagle.
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