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Sojourner - Empires Of Ash (2016) - Review

Band: Sojourner
Album title: Empires Of Ash
Release date: 13 June 2016
Label: Avantgarde Music

01. Bound By Blood
02. Heritage Of The Natural Realm
03. Aeons Of Valor
04. The Pale Host
05. Homeward
06. Trails Of The Earth
07. Empires Of Ash

Time for some good epic and atmospheric extremity now. One of the most notable releases in this field so far this year must be the debut album of Sojourner, a band from New Zealand, currently based in Scotland, while the vocalist Emilio is from Sweden. So, those of you who are tired of waiting for the next album of Summoning or Caladan Brood should pay some attention to this one. Empires Of Ash brings seven epic folk tunes with running time of almost one hour, inspired by nature and fantasy tales that are carefully carved in black metal sound. This is an album that will for sure satisfy those metal heads that are addicted by Tolkiens Lord Of The Rings, Hobbit and  George R. R. Martin's Game Of Thrones, but I'm sure that not only those as it offers pretty interesting array of sounds with a constant celtic/folk note.
While the music offered by Sojourner will for sure let your imagination fly, the album doesn't open up in a such great manner, "Bound By Blood" is the most mellow and quite uninspired track up here, but still it's a pretty intense tune with typical nordic black metal vocals, blasting rhythmic line and some nice shredding guitar lines that bring in mind Woods Of Desolation or Wolves In The Throne Room to a certain point. After a couple of listens I just skip this one, because rest of the album is simply another story. The real fantasy world opens up with the first real epic track named "Heritage Of The Natural Realm", where several elements come in picture, from traditional folk instruments like is tin whistle and different ethnic sounds, piano, graceful, yet cold atmospheric synths, to backing female vocals performed by Chloe Bray, everything wrapped by harsh and still melodic post-blackened metal. And so the story goes on, in the middle the ambiance gets pretty magical with serene semi acoustic piano/whistle driven celtic ballad "The Pale Host", sung completely by emotive and sensual female vocals. My favorite track up here is "Homeward", it opens up with dreamy synths and then delivers quite catchy dose of blackened doom metal with strong folkish scent implemented inside. Male/female vocal duet is impressive here and it paints a nostalgic picture of serene middle earth after the battle. Also the last two tracks are simply grandiose, like it's necessary for every good atmospheric black metal album there are many variations, it's breathtaking when those strong blasting drums, absolutely graceful driving harmonic guitar melodies and delicate symphonic passages grab you with its flow into the imaginary world of majestic heroic battles, something similar like in the case of Saor's album Aura or Caladan Brood's Echoes Of Battle. Sojourner shines because of dense atmospheric parts, elaborated powerful rhythmic line and overall dynamic pathos.

Sojourner certainly have more in common with before mentioned Caladan Brood and Saor, but also with Agalloch and Midnight Odyssey to a certain degree, than with Austrian masters of atmospheric black sound Summoning. Empires Of Ash is a consistent album, a harmonic one, full of magic and melancholy. In its very basis this is still more a black metal thing than a folk one, especially thanks to somehow frosty shimmering atmosphere and shrieking male vocals, which in my opinion are the weakest point in here, but thankfully still good enough to offer a proper journey into a dream world. The production could be better, it's kind of a rough one, but still it doesn't ruin anything, maybe the final mix on vocals should be better, with more depth and some reverb. Even though this is a debut album for this band it sounds like we deal with some veterans and I'm sure that this album, even though it doesn't really bring anything new into the genre, will get the deserved appreciation from fans who like atmospheric, folk and post black metal.

Review written by: T.V.
Rating: 8/10