Offering further distant atmospherics and epic metal variation on his work in Blood Stronghold, Australian musician Nightwolf finds himself a lone warrior in tackling his second solo full-length under the name Runespell. Expectations are fairly high among folks who have some great interest in the apically melodic pagan black metal he’d already flaunted on Runespell‘s ‘Aeons Of Ancient Blood’ demo in 2017. His approach seemed positioned towards a deeper atmospheric sound and the style of the demo didn’t ooze ‘substance’ yet it’s hollow, majestic tone carried some glorious guitar patterns. Outside of a bulbous drum sound, much of that atmosphere carries through successfully but ‘Order of Vengeance’ appears murky and half-realized as a listening experience.
The aim of this project seems to entirely hinge on it’s distance from the listener. You’re not only at sword’s length from his growls and Pestilential Shadows style guitar work, Nightwolf‘s sounds as if he is performing from a cave. This wasn’t so damning on ‘Unhallowed Blood Oath”, but in this case it is a Grendel to the listener’s Beowulf. This distance is uncomfortable, and note that I take similar issue with Graveland‘s ‘Thousand Swords’ where I’m not fully able to connect with the rhythm of the music because of it’s fidelity. I understand that is the modus of many Dark Adversary Productions related artists and I shouldn’t expect early Primordial or something like Obsequiae, though I felt ‘Unhallowed Blood Oath’ was a step further in that direction.
Even if it doesn’t entirely live up to the promise of it’s demo and LP counterparts, the first half of ‘Order of Vengeance’ is lead by the same fine guitar work heard in all of Nightwolf‘s releases. Though the tone of the instrument is buried slightly, it gives the feeling of old Greek pagan metal with less of the watery Cascadian guitar work on the previous album. I believe earlier Graveland is a major influence for much of Runespell‘s style and mixing ethos, unless I’ve overlooked something key. Beyond “Night’s Gate” I felt a distinct drop in quality, particularly with the guitar work on “Blood Martyr” where the hollow drum sound and divergent guitar parts entirely fall apart despite an inspired lead guitar section buried by the odd balance of the recording.
It is a shame that I couldn’t personally connect with ‘Order of Vengeance’ as it does great things with the epic pagan/black metal style, has a strong sense of melody, and at least attempts to pull it all off with a fairly lo-fi atmospheric black metal approach. I would largely only recommend the first four tracks with “Destiny Over Discord” and the strong opener “Retribution in Iron” as the strongest pairing. If you’re a bit more forgiving than I am about drum sound and distant guitar tone or just a fanatic for this style of pagan black metal Runespell‘s debut full-length will be for you. If you loved the mix of ‘Unhallowed Blood Oath’, don’t expect a repeat on ‘Order of Vengeance’. It’ll likely be a matter of iteration, as with Nightwolf‘s other projects, while he finds the right balance.
|Released||July 6, 2018|
|BUY/LISTEN on Iron Bonehead Productions’ Bandcamp!||Runespell on Metal-Archives|
Atmospheric Black Metal,
Pagan Black Metal
Ancient cults still living. 3.0/5.0
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