REVIEW: Svartalvheim – Cosmic Sorrows

Band: Svartalvheim
Album: Cosmic Sorrows
Release: 2012
Label: Unsigned
Genre: Symphonic extreme metal

Do you remember those chance encounters that turn into full-blown love affairs at first listen? The bands who tell you, from the first moment, that you are going to highly enjoy whichever brand of music they have to offer? This affair happened with me, the band in question being Svartalvheim, a New Zealand band I discovered while researching for the There’s Metal Here series (post here). Their music is symphonic extreme metal, evoking influences from both Greek and Italian quarters, but their style is unique enough to avoid cries of plagiarism. Cosmic Sorrows is the début album, after an untitled EP in 2009, and it’s a rip-roaring ride from full-on blasts to flowing cinematic orchestration, and a frequent melding of the two.

After a film sample about religious belief, “Fettered To The Unreasonable” kicks off to an excellent start. The synth-orchestration is at the forefront, along with appropriate guttural lows from Smith, who also has a fair amount of overlapping shrieks to counterbalance. His rhythm guitar supports Wynand’s leads and tremolos, which culminates in a neatly-timed solo section before a series of metallic explosions rounds off the track. My first impression was of Fleshgod Apocalypse, although Septicflesh sprang to mind later with “Offspring Of The Niphilim”, matching Communion-style velocity with an enveloping and crushing sound. Admittedly, there was an eyebrow raise when “This Temple Will Not Hold” first appeared, bearing an an almost trance-esque atmosphere, but that too blended in well with the other elements. Finally, the piano work is nothing short of gorgeous, giving off a Romantic Bach-like vibe amidst the tempest of blackened death metal.

That said, the album has one or two minor issues which multiple spins gently highlight. The most prominent of these is the similarity between one or two tracks, particularly later in the runtime. “Synthetic Society” and “Lack Of Scepticism, A Road To Ruin” lack some intangible quality, and remain less attention-grabbing than the catchy groove underlying “If The Gods Cannot Stop Me” or the acoustic elements introduced in “Beyond The Veil”. Secondly, this album has a similar dichotomous quality to Lykathea Aflame’s Elvenefris: neither can be spun constantly, but every time they are is a wondrous experience.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this album is nothing sounds disjointed; all the instruments* have their individual places. The production, while touched by Motörhead’s “everything louder than everything else” policy, strikes the well-thought balance between raw and mature. As a result, the orchestral and acoustic elements don’t suffer under the metal’s powerful clout. No solo is predictable, no instrumental break tedious. Even the vocals have the necessary variety, while the poetic lyrics are akin to older Scar Symmetry in their celestial and anti-organized religion topics.

Ignorance the law of dogmatic fate
Morality ceases its relevance

- “Fettered To The Unreasonable”

“Singularity has swallowed me
This is the final thought
I wish my soul to be set free”

- “Quantum Singularity”

To conclude, if the above hasn’t convinced you to give this album a try, then chances are you are not a symphonic extreme metal fan. For the rest, Cosmic Sorrows is a frankly stunning début from a band who deserve much more exposure. The blend of orchestration and unrelenting heaviness strikes a chord with this review, and it’ll certainly be making my Top 10 of 2012.

-
* Synth, guitars and bass were by Wynand, drums were session.)

Rating: 9.75/10

2 responses

  1. Irmelinis

    Sounds like a great album, thanks alot for stream-link.

    July 29, 2012 at 9:23 pm

  2. Pingback: The Monolith » HIDDEN GEMS: EUPHOREON & SVARTALVHEIM

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