Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bloodway - Sunstone Voyager and the Clandestine Horizon (EP) [2014]

Over the last few years, I, Voidhanger Records has been the cultivator of a splendid array of underground releases; for a label so unknown to the majority of the metal communion, the gamut of their signings is incredibly extensive, ranging from proggy psychedelia, to doom, to atmospheric black metal and old school death metal - they've literally built up a pantheon of underground extremities which have both the sparsity and quality that would unquestionably attract more than just a few etherized listeners. And the great thing is that the wave does not stop in 2014 - far from it. What the ravenous underground metal enthusiast comes across in 2014 is yet another eclectic, dark oddity. Romania's Bloodway is, as it is to nearly every other listener, a fresh face as well as an unexpected propulsion of sorrow, grief, anger and spiritual dilemmas stretched out to an abstract and progressively enhanced degree. For the 26 minutes of lifespan it may have, ''Sunstone Voyager and the Clandestine Horizon'' is no easy pill to swallow, and packed with more material than other bands do in entire plus-1-hour offerings.

The rather graphic, surreal imagery on the cover should already provide some information on the density and richness of the dimensions explored on the EP. Putting Bloodway in one category is difficult; the group's sound pervades doom, sludge, black, death and progressive metal in eccentric proportions, but even that would not be able to do their unique sound proper justice. To put simply Bloodway possesses a characteristic rawness that sometimes morphs into tempered black metal chords, and sometimes to melody fests like on ''Free Ends'', and the EP never ceases to be suffused in the heart-wrenching agony that the vocalist, a kind of disillusioned madman strapped on a microphone, seems to suffer and lament. But unlike many raw or ''suicidal'' black metal acts that shower the listener with similar tides of catharsis, Bloodway's guitar work is collectively geared up and functions with fastidious efficiency: they've got a riff for nearly every moment, and each is no less technical than your average progressive black metal record. Point is, riff brewing is their job, and they can sure as hell do it. The guitars hold a subtle balance between dented and crisp, which is perhaps their secret delivery formula. I loved how they were seamlessly driving through the somber thickets of atmosphere in post-rock formations without actually barring the vocals or the drums, which, by any measure, were satisfying.

Fuck, even the vocals, reared on the edge of some imminent doom, delivered. Much like a black metal version of John Tardy or Van Drunnen, the vocalist barks and screams with utter pain and loss, a beautiful accompaniment to the cruising guitar assemblies. I did feel the atmospheric achievement of the album was somewhat dwarfed by the technical feats of the instruments, and there was no orchestral undertone to the album which I would definitely have preferred, (except, maybe, for the opiate intro track, which was something of an electronic track) but I suppose my gripes about the EP are confined only to that extent. The raw and visceral treatment of the EP is one that's more shocking than disappointing: I imagine certain listeners were waiting for a less refined, less abrupt piece, something more aural, but the moment the stupendous ''The Skeleton Key'' kicks in with its bustling rhythms and dark chord ballasts, the listener has no more false images about the EP's direction. The fact is, I am still in conflict with myself on how what I think about this album. I certainly enjoyed it, enough for it to compel a good many listens, but I'm still a bit lost in the hazy conglomeration of its riffs... Never mind me. If you want to enjoy some grieving, technically-oriented paranoia - stuff that has its place alongside many well-relished underground monarchs - you want to give this a go. If all else goes wrong, you have a man mummified with stars with a crescent moon for a crotch and a sun for a brain to contemplate.

The Skeleton Key
Free Ends
Sunstone Voyager and the Clandestine Horizon

Rating: 85%

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