There are some seriously wicked, high-quality releases coming out from my side of the ditch this year – and among my favorites has got to be Cosmic Sorrows, the new album from Auckland doom metallers Svartalvheim (released on July 23).
Svartalvheim have come a long way since their 2009 Untitled demo, and Cosmic Sorrows presents a sophisticated soundscape of musical layers swamped in classical mofits. Fans of Septicflesh, Hate Eternal, Fleshgod Apocalypse and Cradle of Filth (the good years), will find a lot to enjoy in this relentless, melodic and insanely listenable album.
Short passages of classical instrumentation on piano and strings. On “Quantum Singularity”, a soft intro on the keys leads seamlessly into an onslaught of double kick and furious guitar. On this song vocals take a step back, allowing guitars and keys to claim the melody, and it’s these instrumental passages that stick in the mind, that have you flicking “replay” to enjoy the complex melodies and exquisite aural annihilation.
Svartalvheim’s early influences are firmly in the realms of British Doom metal, and this is evident on the slower passages of songs like “Fettered to the Unreasonable”. Although the vocals on “This Temple Will Not Hold” have more in common with black metal, the heavy rhythm and haunting tone remind more of a Katatonia song – one played in triple-time.
With darker, gruffer vocals, intense blastbeats and strings plucking across every riff, “Offspring of the Niphilim” draws to mind comparisons to Fleshgod Apocalypse. Although I think Svartalvheim have a ways to go in terms of production quality until they sound, the musicianship and progressive structure is definitely there. This is definitely one of my favorite songs from the album.
The mighty “Lack of Scepticism, a Road to Ruin” reminds me a lot of “Puritania”-era Dimmu Borgir, with a lot of Svartalvheim’s classical flair thrown in. Keyboards and classical passages add interest to the songs without overpowering, and there’s enough raw energy here to keep interest over the longer compositions.
The band handle complex themes and a multiplicity of musical soundscapes with ease, and the end result is a dark and fascinating album that doesn’t slide into pretentiousness. Symphonic metal isn’t a style tackled much by bands in New Zealand, and it’s great to hear a local band like Svartalvheim give their own unique spin on the style. Cosmic Sorrows has found a home on my iPod, and I think if you chuck it on yours, you won’t be disappointed.