Conspicuous by their absence, Texan symphonic black Metal five piece Vesperian Sorrow return after five years with their fourth album, 'Stormwinds Of Ages', the successor to 2006s 'Regenesis Creation'. At a hefty fifty-eight minutes, consisting of eleven tracks, all exceeding the four minute mark, it certainly offers value for money.
Typical of many symphonic Metal bands, Subverseraph's keyboards are fairly dominant but thankfully not excessively so, serving to complement the guitars and bass from William and Justin M, rather than overpower as can sometimes be the case. Happily the guitars feature strongly enough to give this album plenty of substance.
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Their musical style is reminiscent in some respects of 90s symphonic Metal. The key selling point for me, no surprise here, are the vocal skills of Donn Donni, a fabulous deep rasping growl.
The album also has guest appearances from Carl August Tidemann (Winds/Tritonus, ex Arcturus), Jon Zig (Images Of Violence/Sarcolytic), Jason McMaster (Evil United/Ignitor) and Erika Tandy Swinnich (Hod, ex Autumn Tears).
The album opens with the atmospheric scene building intro 'Sanguis Vitam Est' before moving seamlessly into title track 'Stormwinds Of Ages', which has the addition, as does the subsequent track 'An Empire To Mourn' of guest shredder Carl August Tidemann and an appealing mix of sung and spoken vocals.
Next up, 'Casting Dawn Into A Shadow' features Erika Tandy Swinnich on backing vocals. I really loved the acoustic Spanish guitar interlude on 'Crown Of Glass', which makes a welcome appearance at the two minute mark giving it a Dimmu Borgir meets Breed 77 feel.
On 'Legacies Befallen' I was very drawn to the excellent guitars. 'Eye Of The Clock Tower', the longest track, which was also guitar led was a real favourite with me. I also thought the quality of drum work from Kristoph, consistently good throughout, was particularly impressive on this track.
The fast paced 'Oracle From The Ashes' was also a noteworthy track, as was the equally fast paced 'Relics Of The Impure', which was another favourite with me. Both these tracks had an exciting edge to them.
Keyboards give a sorrowful and tragic atmosphere to 'Death She Cried', ending with some excellent, haunting guitars. The final track, powerful, chugging, guitar led 'Of Opiates And Accolades' is an exciting end to this album.
All in all this is an enjoyable album well worthy of a good many spins. It is well performed, well produced and easy to listen to, an absolute gem.
'Stormwinds Of Ages' is available now from The Path Less Traveled Records.