THE DEMO CORNER
When a genre of metal has lost a lot of momentum and popularity over the years and claims of “done-to-death” are professed from the fans, even the most jaded and fickle of the metal community will open their ears if it’s done right. Something about symphonic/melodic black metal from Texas must be difficult for people to grasp because Vesperian Sorrow have undoubtedly been doing it right for over a decade yet they’ve been doing so in relative obscurity and independently for the majority of their existence. In fact, “doing it right” is an understatement and would be akin to merely shooting par when you’re talking about a band that has just about perfected it. Vesperian Sorrow’s fourth full-length album, Stormwinds of Ages, is an opus seemingly a decade in the making and by that I mean, this is by far their best work yet and would seem to be exactly what they’ve been striving toward from the very beginning.
Stormwinds of Ages is as majestic and epic as it is aggressive and relentless. The crystalline production allows the sweeping melody from the keys to fuse perfectly with the powerful riffs and the absolute onslaught of the drumming and monstrously strong vocals. Some like to use the phrase “wall of sound” in a negative fashion when too many instruments and vocals are trying to share room in the speakers, but in this case it’s more like a giant billowing curtain of sound waving with the wind, releasing the music in precise moments. Every blemish and slight fallacy from their previous albums has been smoothed out and perfected on Stormwinds of Ages.
The first track (also the title track) basically encapsulates all of that and sets the tone for what to expect from this much-matured and veteran Vesperian Sorrow. You’re greeted with furious and clinical drumming and voracious vocals, neither of which are asked to make room for the other. The riffing is catchy and the symphonics tastefully fill any void. There’s a constant melody, nice soloing and an immense hook right in the middle of the song after a vocal effect that just makes you shiver with goose bumps at how impressively perfect it all comes together. “Stormwinds of Ages” is the kind of song that can define a career and lets the listener know beyond any doubt that this album is serious stuff.
“An Empire to Mourn” doesn’t let you come up for air just yet and before you can blink, the drumming is again firing off like a machine gun with the guitars following suit only to cascade into a lush section of soloing and melody from the keys. It’s quite the impressive assemblage of sections. “Casting down into a Shadow” introduces guest female singer Erika Tandy (Ignitor/Autumn Tears) who trades off with Donni during the chorus and is what Velvet Darkness They Fear-era Theatre of Tragedy would have sounded like sped up. It was a very nice addition to add contrast and show that slight gothic side of Vesperian Sorrow.
“Crown of Glass” is another epic track in a shorter length of time at only four minutes, but during that time a brief segment of Spanish guitar and some kind of flute blend in with the song making it one of the more unique tracks on the album.
I could go track-by-track for the rest of the album but that would make this review entirely too long. What you need to know is that Stormwinds of Ages is not just another black metal album with keyboards mucking up the songs and drowning everything else out, hiding the fact that the band can’t really write cohesive and catchy songs without using that synthetic symphony as a crutch. This is an album of supreme conviction and talent and while they haven’t completely transcended or turned the genre on its head, they’ve breathed life into at just the right time. It’s absurdly catchy from start to finish and without question the finest moment of their career and possibly the genre has seen in ten or more years. Fantastic.
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1. Sanguis Vitam Est
2. Stormwinds of Ages
3. An Empire to Mourn
4. Casting Dawn into a Shadow
5. Crown of Glass
6. Legacies Befallen
7. Eye of the Clock Tower
8. Oracle from the Ashes
9. Relics of the Impure
10. Death She Cried
11. Of Opiates and Accolades
Total playing time: 57:16
Release Date: 2011
Label: Band Self Released
Vesperian Sorrow - Stormwinds of Ages
September 27, 2011