Smoulder – “Times Of Obscene Evil And Wild Daring” (Cruz Del Sur Music)
Battle Helm Rating
With no less than 3 re-pressings of their demo selling out fast, it’s to see why the epic heavy metal of these Canadians has been sought after for this impressive debut! Harking back to the days of 70s sword n sorcery right from the title that comes from Michael Moorcock’s novel “The Great Conqueror” to the fantasy cover by Michael Whelan (Cirith Ungol and numerous novels) to the matching medieval sounding material, melancholic and doomy in places but always movingly epic throughout, Smoulder have been on something of a quest themselves, right from when vocalist Sarah Ann and guitarist Shon Vincent kick started the band following an impromptu jam session in Calgary to re-locating to Toronto in search of musicians to finally recording in Chicago. However, live they’ve gone a lot farther, even playing the Hammer Of Doom Festival in Germany where they were also signed for this 6 track debut. With the songs averaging around the 5 minute + mark and influences like Tales Of Medusa, Manilla Road and Solstice as well as Iron Maiden and Angel Witch evident in the rich leaden sound courtesy of Arthur Rizk (Eternal Champion, Sumerlands), Smoulder have all the boxes ticked on this captivating release. From the 6 minute + ‘Ilian Of Garathorm’, the thick dirty guitars Shon Vincent and Colin Blake don’t just bang your head through their heavy but catchy riffage but equally reach out to your heart through their mystical solos as Sarah Ann’s deeply soulful voice lures your mind through the song’s captivating chorus lines. On the re-recording of ‘The Sword Woman’ (originally on their demo), the slow but moving riffola melds perfectly with Ann’s powerful highs evoking strong emotions throughout and culminating in the melancholic solo ending that will not leave you unmoved. Likewise, the intricate, medieval guitar work on ‘Shadowy Sisterhood’ contrasted by Kevin Hester’s dramatic pagan drum work and Adam Blake’s prominently plucked bass lines along with Ann’s wicked trance song and wild screams really make for the drama on this highly memorable piece. At just over 9 minutes, ‘The Black God’s Kiss’ plods to heavy drums and deep prominent bass with plenty of reverb in the guitars that soon unleash a dark, possessive melody that leads onto an addictive groove only matched by Ann’s outstanding vocal peaks that are nothing short of spell bounding. Daring and bold with a talent to match, this youthful band don’t just do previous generations proud but with exceedingly good taste, have fashioned a sound of their own that could become legendary in its own right.