RUNESPELL – Verses in Regicide (2021)REVIEW

Having reviewed the last three releases from Australian black metal musician Nightwolf‘s melodious and triumphal pagan black metal project Runespell, there is little need for formality or fanfare in presentation of the well-anticipated fourth album ‘Verses in Regicide‘. This latest in a growing line of ‘epic’ and dramatically presented works is notable for all of the same reasons one might expect but likewise all the more impressive today for the artist’s growing whirl of grand melodic statement. What impresses most as we enter this latest portal to ancient heroism on offer is inarguably Runespell‘s consistent high-intensity escalation, attrition by way of prolific yet meaningful progression towards the actualized ambitions of the musician. It’d be fair to describe this as “ostinato” in the most positive sense, a repetition upon a core idea with clear bouts of refinement within each cycle, that which whittles away all but the most direct and intended conversation with the listener. If we’d considered ‘Voice of Opprobrium‘ (2019) the arrow landed closest to the heart of its prey, a breakthrough already visible on the horizon, then consider this follow-up a proud conqueror’s head swiveling in view of the panoramic vastlands usurped by their own hand, beaming in reflection.

Formed sometime on or before 2017, Runespell has quickly become an important and defining voice for Nightwolf, a fellow whom we can count amongst Australia’s New South Wales-embedded outliers thanks to his late 2000’s involvement in Eternum, which also featured Azgorh of Drowning the Light, as well as his impressive project with prolific Polish black metal musician Krew, Blood Stronghold. Between reviews for ‘Order of Vengeance‘, ‘Voice of Opprobrium‘ and their most recent split with Forest Mysticism much of what there is to say about ‘Verses in Regicide’ has been expressed well enough in a few different ways; The major point of refinement here is the best yet emphasis upon lead guitar-voiced melodicism which’d manifested as defining sparks of genius on the previous two releases, that which now appears as a complete seven-part narrative herein. Sewn together by similarly phrased chapters yet effective enough as standalone pieces, the greater tunnel-vision provided by the whole of ‘Verses in Regicide’ lends itself well to hours of binge listening even if it doesn’t initially appear to be a major step beyond ready established parameters thus far. It’d be easy to get lost in the sway of guitar heroicism and miss the greater impact of this album beyond clearly stated spectacle.

From the mud-slicked trenches of battle, to the cloud-wet cliffside keep. The first preview track afforded the public, opener “Structures of Collapse” reads as it should a bowing entrance into scene which presents the first uplifting consonant arc as a ripple from which to extrapolate the rest of the tale. If you recall my whinging over the drum sound and overall distance of the production on ‘Order of Vengeance’ a few years back then consider me shut up in the years since, with the drums set just beneath the sizzling blade of the guitars and the vocals a shower of sparks from the forge which echo-locate a belfry-sized reverberation. It’d still be fair to view Runespell as a distant ancestral pick-up of the greater revelation offered by ‘Thousand Swords’ to some degree, in terms of presentation and running order there is some sub-conscious linkage there by way of taste but we can probably start to retire ye olde Graveland comparison as we proceed through these tales of great exploit. “Realm of Fire” likewise pulls these compositional feats away from the obvious reference of Nightwolf‘s related work in Blood Stronghold, having established what I’d consider a much more sentimental bent within the banner-waving marched-out pace of the record thus far. The melodic break around ~1:45 minutes in just one of two brief interruptions to a very determined piece as we lead into what I’d consider the apex of the full listen. With this in ear we can begin to consider the wealth of Finnish, French, and Polish black metal touting lucid melodic guile in droves and at the same time not consider Runespell as having plucked too deeply from any of them, instead forging their own point of view from similarly impressive tools. This level of personal sensibility is vaguely comparable to that of Pestilential Shadows‘ own long developed melodic precision, though the foundation is built from entirely different font.

Taking a bit of the acoustic passageway meets melodic epic alternation found on ‘Voices of Opprobrium’, “Into Dust” ultimately acts as a short introduction to “Tides of Slidhr” via choral rise and acoustic foreshadowing, preparing us for the main event. From there it doesn’t take much more than a the hard-bounding revelry of a good bassline to get me on board for a nine minute trek along the deepest river of celtic Hell. We’ve more or less crossed over onto Side B with this piece and into the third and final “act” found within the last four pieces. “Tides of Slidhr” is the sort of extended piece which typically serve as my favorite part of each Runespell release. On the split release from last year it was “Fated in Blood” and on the prior album it’d been the title track, and this time around is no less impactful upon soldiering me into appreciating the trek and the scope of the full listen. That said, it is the galloping horseback stride of the song which sustains me and not any particular riff, although around ~5:48 they break into a particularly resonant pocket of the song, a simple Quorthonian groove which they continue to build upon with each verse beyond.

Argument made well enough, I suppose, we are a few flaps closer to Emain Ablach herein. For all of the needling I could continue to do over the finer details the appeal of ‘Verses in Regicide’ should not be posited as if it were a riddle. The inherent musical value of Runespell‘s work is increasingly stated up front via its chest-raising n’ sword clashing melodicism. The signature “righteous sorrow” of Runespell‘s own voicing still speaks well to the vital merger between ‘epic’ cinematic presentation and the encasement of classicist black metal. We are not taking a flying leap into the unknown with the artist on ‘Verses in Regicide’ but stopping to appreciate their prideful soar over conquered territory. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (77/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Verses in Regicide
LABEL(S):Iron Bonehead Productions
RELEASE DATE:September 10th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp | IBP Store
GENRE(S):Black Metal,
Melodic Black Metal

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