SOJOURNER — Empires of Ash (review)

SOJOURNER — Empires of Ash album cover Album · 2016 · Atmospheric Black Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
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Who says black metal can't be beautiful? Well probably a lot of people actually, but that's actually the impression that Empires of Ash (2016), the debut full-length album of multi-national black metal act Sojourner, gives me. This four-piece band who has members based in New Zealand and Sweden previously released a single in 2015 called Heritage of the Natural Realm, but this is their first major release. Half the group's line-up, Mike Lamb (drums, guitars, keyboards) and Mike Wilson (bass), also make up the two-piece doom metal act Lysithea.

The music on Empires of Ash is epic atmospheric black metal with quite a lot of underlying folk influences and melodies thanks mostly to the use of tin whistle. The vocals on the album are mostly growled by frontman Emilio Crespo but there are also some additional clean vocals provided by guitarist Chloe Bray (who also plays the tin whistle). The music actually sounds as you might expect it to looking at the album's cover art, conjuring up images of beautiful landscapes and ancient fantasy ruins. Summoning is a fair comparison to what Sojourner are doing on this album. It's black metal, but a rather warm sounding and inviting kind. That's not to say it doesn't have its moments where it really hits you with heaviness and Crespo's snarled vocals, but it's definitely far removed from the black metal stereotype of being harsh and cold music played by people wearing corpse paint. Though it technically belongs to the same base genre as the likes of Burzum's Hvis Lyset Tar Oss (1994), the album will no doubt appeal to a very different kind of listener.

While an excellent album to lose yourself in for about an hour, clear highlights for me are Heritage of the Natural Realm and the closing title track, which I think is a definite case of saving the best for last. It's true that Sojourner don't very their style very much, but they are very good at what they do. The most different track on the album would have to The Pale Host, placed in the middle of the tracklist, as there's no metal and is entirely sung by Chloe Bray. It could be called an interlude piece, but it is a full song in its own right, so shouldn't be dismissed.

Empires of Ash is an excellent debut album from Sojourner and is recommended to anyone who likes their black metal epic.
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more than 2 years ago
I like Summoning a lot so this sounds promising for me. Will check it out.

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