RUNESPELL – Sentinels of Time (2022)REVIEW

Running on high after five years and with six well-received releases to his priority solo project’s name, Australian triumphal pagan black metal artist Nightwolf‘s Runespell continues to flood minds in-the-know with an inspired, professionally presented and now notably signature bearing discography built upon dramatic yet adventurously soldiered songcraft. Their latest EP release, which is technically album length when set next to the previous two releases, continues the thread brilliantly, emphasizing the successes of its predecessor (‘Verses in Regicide‘, 2021) wherein the lead guitar driven voicing of his work expands into longer-form pieces — erring on the side of ‘epic’ melodicism rather than mere atmospheric illustrations. ‘Sentinels of Time‘ is now even more fittingly evocative of heroic clashes and brutal sojourn yet finds its three major pieces achieving immersion by an additional magnitude, making for a worthy boon of spirit from this fine black metal project.

Runespell appears to have formed at some point beyond 2014 after Eternum ended and Blood Stronghold had formed, their style is most commonly compared to the more Bathory-esque aspects of Graveland and I’ve covered the evolution beyond that initial idea within several reviews of past albums, starting with their second record (‘Order of Vengeance‘, 2018) representing the tone-setting ambition of their discography and their third (‘Voice of Opprobrium‘, 2019) finding more of its own voice within stoic pacing, greater focus on lead-guitar driven melodic statements and haunting acoustic instrumental movements. As suggested ‘Verses in Regicide‘ was the album that’d essentially put all of the pieces together while featuring an better representative standard for production, not slickened to the point of voiding identity but resonant enough to inspire many a repeat listen. Because this is an EP expanding upon that high point rather than straying from it my thoughts will be a bit boring to consider here for the sake of this release being a matter of refinement, exploration into larger pieces and various signature tones which create a Runespell specific mood and modality. Despite the fact that I’ve nothing all that new to say beyond appreciating a few finer points of craft, this is nonetheless this project at thier best.

“Claws of Vanagandr” opens with what is an righteous representative piece, the essence of the Runespell trait expressed in bounding, fairly aggressive motion. The flair for dramatic build featured in much of Nightwolf‘s work is well on display here in the first two minutes of the song before the major hook of the lead guitar presents itself and begins shaping the gallop forth of the piece, which essentially rants on for another eight or so minutes. Pockets of speed begin to pick up momentum alongside doubly intensified melody before an nigh pagan/folk metal turn ~5:54 minutes in cleverly extends said melody into its circular phrase. When given so much room to breath and stride in the moment Runespell‘s sound feels all the more expansive and, yes, illustrative of scene which’d been one of the major reasons I’d been so receptive of the previous release’s longer songs. At this point the artists work is clearly invoking a specific scene within each work and I suppose what’d impressed me was that the vision for each piece managed to land as fitting to the subject, per “Memories of Steel” depicting violence and nostalgia within groove-stricken rhythm guitars angled into more spaced and reflective movements.

At just about ~34 minutes ‘Sentinels of Time‘ feels entirely substantial as the latest addition to Runespell‘s impressive discography, the 10-12 minute format allows for their songcraft to stretch just the the point of overstatement and this suits the triumphant, superior tone which now becomes the signature sound of the project. I’d found myself drawn to this over most of the this month’s black metal releases and I feel some confidence recommending it since each if their last four releases (split included) have held up well in creating a strong body of work. Fans of Slavic, melodic, lightly folkish and/or paganistic black metal will particularly be geared for this one, the uninitiated are best served starting with this record (or the previous) in catching Nightwolf at his best. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (77/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Sentinels of Time [EP]
LABEL(S):Iron Bonehead Productions
RELEASE DATE:June 1st, 2022

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