THE DEMO CORNER
It seems like any time someone mentions Vesperian Sorrow the fact that the band hails from Texas is likely to arise. While it may seem like an odd notion for a black metal band to come from the lone star state, several other impressive blackened outfits such as Absu, Averse Sefira, Brown Jenkins, and Bahimiron call Texas home. However, Vesperian Sorrow is probably the only truly noteworthy Texas band playing black metal of the symphonic variety.
Vesperian Sorrow has been kicking around the underground for over a decade with large gaps between the releases of each of its albums. After six long years Vesperian Sorrow is returning again with its best work to date, Stormwinds of Ages; the album should earn the band some well-deserved, albeit overdue attention.
For those who aren't familiar with Vesperian Sorrow, the band plays symphonic black metal evocative of the Nineties. However, this band has more talent and skill than one typically hears in this subgenre. Vesperian Sorrow belongs among the masters; the group is like a blend of Dimmu Borgir and Limbonic Art, with occasional dashes of Emperor and Cradle of Filth (minus the latter’s goofiness). There's also a little death metal thrown in for good measure. That description may not sound too enticing in print, but Stormwinds of Ages only shares the very best traits of each of these bands.
As with most symphonic black metal bands, Vesperian Sorrow's keyboards are quite dominant. Sometimes they're almost over-the-top, but the keys manage to stay within the realm of good taste. Luckily the keyboard parts add to each track and aren't there just for the sake of "atmosphere." The keyboards play constant "riffs" and actually carry as much weight as the guitars. Thankfully, the keys never sound low-budget or cheesy.
Like the keyboards, the guitar parts are heavy as hell and quite hummable. The guitar work stands above many other black metal bands, especially in the solos department. There are tons of smokin' leads and gnarly sweeps spicing up Vesperian Sorrow's black metal recipe. Guest performer, Carl August Tidemann (Winds / ex-Arcturus) also adds some serious shredding skills to "An Empire to Mourn" and the title track. The other guest performances contribute greatly to many of the songs on the album as well, but I’ll get to that. The rhythm section adds a thick bottom-end to the album's tunes and gives them a death metal-like force. There's no thin, tinny necro sound here; the production is nearly flawless.
The bass has a thick, powerful presence while the variety of the drumming goes beyond typical black metal and even begins to approach death metal territory. There's much more going on than your standard blast beat here. The vocals are usually a mid-range growl or rasp, and there are no grating, monotonous shrieks to be found anywhere. In fact, the vocals at times are reminiscent of blackened death metal bands like God Dethroned. This heavier style of vocals fits better with the album's thicker death metal vibe than something in a higher register would have. Guest vocalists contribute some extra variety as well. Jon Zig (Sarcolytic / Images of Violence), Jason McMaster (Dangerous Toys / ex-Watchtower / Ignitor), and Erika Tandy (ex-Autumn Tears) all make brief but noteworthy appearances. However, Tandy steals the show on one of the album's highlights, "Casting Dawn into Shadow." Lyrically, the songs focus on dark topics, but they are neither especially evil nor satanic, nor do they focus on overly-romantic Hot Topic vampire bullshit.
Stormwinds of Ages is miles beyond Vesperian Sorrow's other already solid material. Symphonic black metal freaks are sure to love this album. Having said that, Stormwinds of Ages is really symphonic black metal for people who aren't totally crazy about symphonic black metal; there's truly something here for everyone with even a passing interest in the subgenre. The well-written songs, killer production, and amazing performances make Vesperian Sorrow's latest hard to resist. While Stormwinds of Ages is not exactly original, one would be hard-pressed to find stronger symphonic black metal anywhere, Texas or otherwise. Stormwinds of Ages sets the standard for symphonic black metal in the post-Emperor world.
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Vesperian Sorrow - Stormwinds of Ages
May 11, 2012
Release Date: 2011
Label: Band Self Released
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