Grasped by the spine and the nape with a spear through the heart the warriors death deems worthy a placement in the eternal war above. An air of ascension cannot mask the rusted smell of bloodied gravel and rusting sword he carries with. Yet the damage done, the flurries and hacking motions of steel, are carved like runes upon the petrification of the past. The devout take more than cues in their study of the ancient ways whence a fabled sort of fellow, he who’d take up arms rather than live with the pigs in shit, grows from admirer to participant and there glosses the serpent-engraved shield of Runespell— A testament to the power of the old ways with perhaps as much (or more) personal devotion to them than some forbear. Although I’d not been able to lift the veil of mud and programmed drum from my list of inglorious characteristic in terms of ‘Order of Vengeance’ (2018), today I’d suggest this newly chilling Valkyrie cry, ‘Voice of Opprobrium’, is finally the epic black metal arrow of Nightwolf in the flesh meeting its prey on Runespell‘s third full-length in three years.
You could even argue Runespell is a point of mastery, a bolt of solitary wit from the maestro behind Eternum and Blood Stronghold though this third album differentiates in three categories, each expanding upon perceived signature aspects of the project and Nightwolf‘s body of work; Pride as an aspect, blood as a historical thread, runes offering ward of mystic wisdom, wolfen spirits conjure intelligent aggression upon all matters, and the ancient origins of culture are the spiritual drivers for the majority of the artists work but without a lyric sheet the ‘epic’ heavy metal approach to atmospheric black metal will have to speak for itself. Of course it does so in a beautifully 90’s melodic black metal inspired forcefulness but, this time around the aforementioned trifecta of growth exudes confidence and lands upon memorability. The spacious acoustic mannerisms of Obsequiae are doubled in length, the leading melodicism of Furor Lunae (or… Rotting Christ?) finds an ‘epic’ escalation within each song, and the structural sense of Graveland drives the atmosphere this time around more than it does each movement. One cannot help roll thier shoulders back in ecstasy as these memorable lead guitar melodies direct the very soul of man to stir into restless contemplation.
Within my decaying form I cannot see past the verdant, vine-dripping stone walls around me. Whatever chemical’d release when “All Thrones Perish II” begins to ring into righteous sorrow, it is a point of dramatic capture for my tired mind with an infinite circular value. The presence of compositions such as these is a bug in every sense; Flitting and soaring past the ear as either unseen threat or malaise inducing bacterial anomaly that’d fling itself through the air with the grace of a billowing over-sized flag– An addiction and a respite to warm within. Always a ‘melodic’ black metal project in theory but only loosely empowering when it came time to elucidate their contents, the major point of growth for Runespell is the doubled emphasis on acoustic guitar passages and melodic lead guitars. This might not sound like a particularly advanced thought process but fans of Obsequiae‘s ‘Suspended in the Brume of Eos’ and perhaps Seth‘s ‘Les Blessures de L’Ame’ (alternately anything from Caverne) will find a bit of each characteristic imbued and extricated in glorious epic form on ‘Voice of Opprobrium’; Sweeping melodic black metal with an ‘epic’ flair for lead guitar driven melodies that are devastating in musical statement and diabolically grand in their arc make the case for value immediately if you are so attuned.
Taking a step back and further outside of the emotional self it is just as quickly evident that Nightwolf has intentionally honed in on the strengths of the project while excising much of the superficial similarities to Blood Stronghold, namely some of the more amateurish/expected atmospheric black metal input. This means around half of ‘Voice of Opprobrium’ features largely unaccompanied acoustic guitar compositions with a fair amount of reverb applied for the sake of atmosphere akin to a resounding stone hall. The other half of the six song album features those aforementioned epic melodic black metal songs that feature addictive strings of lead guitar work. This is probably the best possible decision moving forward as it conveys the spiritual side of Runespell while also retaining a readable atmospheric value; I’m probably exaggerating in suggesting ‘Order of Vengeance’ was “muddy” but cleaner drum performance and clarity of guitar tone make for a listening experience that is triply repeatable but no less ancient in its motions than prior works. Very high recommendation. For preview purposes I’d suggest the impactful pairing of “Wraithwoods” and “All Thrones Perish II” will provide the soaring middle act of three parts and this should be enough to inform a purchase, though I would praise the 9 minute opus that is the title track just as highly.
Unbanish thy honest spirits. 4.25/5.0
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