It seems like Finland has two major genres of metal: melodic death metal and everything else (symphonic, Gothic, metalcore, pop-rock, black metal) as the majority of bands tend to specialize in this heavy and gloomy style. Such is the case with extreme metal outfit SEPULCHRAL CURSE, whose debut album, “Only Ashes Remain,” was released earlier this summer, on 31 July 2020 via Transcending Obscurity Records.
Combining a black metal ambiance with some death metal elements should result in an engaging listen and this is exactly what SEPULCHRAL CURSE has done on their first long-player, “Only Ashes Remain.” Here, thrashy but melodic guitars counterbalance double pedal drumming and deep resounding gutturals, while the sparse growls add a bit of dynamism to the music. This is a pretty interesting approach in itself, as the vocals and drums provide heaviness and aggression, with the guitars offering a headbanging rhythm and a sense of melody. Opener “From Within the Bowels of the Earth” is a speedier number with a hefty brutal death metal feel to it that doesn’t ease up. The guitar licks make things more enjoyable while the drums and vocals do their thing with fury and power. A short rocking solo closes the track, fading out. “Swarming Blackness” picks up the heaviness factor and raises it to eleven with notable guitar work which contrasts with the menacing sounding drums, while the dual vocal attack of Kari Kankaanpää’s grave gutturals and drummer Tommi Ilmanen’s ear-piercing shrieks break up the tension while adding intensity and a certain amount of uneasiness to the track.
Up next, “Into the Depths Unknown” is a more melodic track, with excellent twin guitar lines and a groovy guitar solo to boost up the overall gloomy ambiance of the song that comes mostly from the two-fold vocal approach, backed by the bass and drums. The doomier side of the band comes forth in “Eyes Inside,” where a cold atmosphere is enhanced by some plodding guitar work and low-register vocals that emanate aggression and terror. Raising the tempo with insane drum work and headbang-ish rhythms, “Church of Loss” blast out full speed at the listeners as crushing riffs complement Tommi Ilmanen’s high-pitched screeches, making things more ominous and terrifying. The intensity continues on “Dead Stars Drawing Spirals,” where melodic fast-paced guitar work meets harsh vocals and a dreary ambiance. Guitarists Jaakko Riihimäki and Aleksi Luukka really show their prowess and skill on this track. The Finnish title, “Maan Tuhkien Uneen” [To the Ashes of the Earth], opens again on more doom metal -oriented riffs, providing a slower pace and somber atmosphere. The tempo changes and stylistic elements introduced in this 11-minute-long piece make it feel more dynamic, ending the album on a heavy and gloomy note.
Overall, “Only Ashes Remain” is an album steeped in darkness and bleakness, as the coldness of the frozen Finnish landscape is translated into music. Fans of old-school death metal and black metal should be very satisfied with this record, but should not expect a typical melodeath album. What SEPULCHRAL CURSE has crafted here is a catchy (blackened) death metal sound with songs that are very riff-focused and that flow well together, supported by a sharp production that allows every instrument to be clearly heard. Truly, “Only Ashes Remain” is a fine debut from a promising band.
Written by Andrea Crow
- From Within the Bowels of the Earth
- Swarming Blackness
- Into the Depths Unknown
- Eyes Inside
- Church of Loss
- Dead Stars Drawing Spirals
- Maan Tuhkien Uneen
Tommi Ilmanen – Drums & Vocals
Kari Kankaanpää – Vocals
Jaakko Riihimäki – Guitars
Aleksi Luukka – Guitars
Niilas Nissilä – Bass
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