I was really amazed from the very first time I listened to the debut demo by Canada’s SMOULDER. They delivered a very well performed mixture of Heavy, Epic and Doom Metal. It was obvious that their songwriting was their strongest feature. The solid riffing, the magnificent lead parts and of course the extremely inspired vocal melodies of Sarah Ann, brought to the foreground a talented band having some great music to share.
But OK the three songs of the demo were simply not enough. And the 7″ EP on Hoove Child Records that was released sometime in the winter of late 2018, simply represented the two of the three demo tracks. So since April 2018 when the demo was released, the waiting for the debut album had already started! And now it is over!
The almost 38 minutes long debut is called “Times of Obscene Evil and Wild Daring”. It contains two re-recorded tracks from the demo plus four new ones.
“Ilian of Garathorm” is the opening track and Ann would comment about it -on its premiere on Decibel Magazine: “’Ilian’ is our ode to one of the infinite incarnations of the Eternal Champion, Michael Moorcock’s immortal anti-hero. When the Champion of Garathorm awakens, she’s unaware of who she is, and her past lives are swirling about her brain in a confused fog as she eventually pieces together her mission. This song is about her bloody, revenge-soaked escapades, and the musical accompaniment is bombastic and epic. It sets the tone for the remainder of the album, which is similarly gory.” – Well she points it quite well. Cause here we got a pounding, mid tempo Epic Metal HYMN. I would consider this track to be one of the album’s top moment. The solid riffing is here again, and those amazing lead guitar parts. And there is this bombastic chorus as well. Great tune.
“The Sword Woman” follows and those familiar with the band’s demo will recognize it. In a much more Doomier still Epic mood this track is simply amazing. The astonishing vocals are the most strong feature in this one, they are obscurely covering each and every solid riff in here.
“Bastard Steel” that follows is the fastest song the band has ever composed. Pounding and straight in the face, it absolutely takes no prisoners.
“Voyage Of The Sunchaser” is also familiar and well known from the demo days. A Heavy / Epic / Doom anthem that brings into the foreground an almost mystical vibe. this is a simply amazing composition, based both on solid and slow riffing, but in mid tempo themes as well. “Shadowy Sisterhood” follows the same mystical path and it is also great. I enjoyed the drumming very much in this one, pounding, complex and adventurous. And the vocals… become even more strange and spiritual in this one. Theatrical you may call them but I guess it is much more than this… Ann lives each and every lyric.
“Black God’s Kiss” is the band’s doomier track in here. Heavy as hell and in slow tempo. The riffs are still very interesting and the song has a quite extensive rhythm structure which is his strongest feature. Still the top class vocals are doing their thing. Hey Doom bands out there. Study this song. I give you this very simple advice.
The record is amazing. The band’s way of composing has not changed since the demo. They combine Heavy, Epic and Doom Metal, delivering some inspired and very well performed music.
However I would not call SMOULDER a straight Epic Doom Metal band, mainly because they extensively use lots of straight Heavy Metal features as their main composing basis, combining them with many Epic themes. And at the end of the day, the overall musical result is actually balanced in the middle of the Heavy, Epic and Doom universe. Sure they leave enough space for the Epic Metal drama and the Doom Metal darkness and for sure I can hear some parts on their song that could be described as “Epic Doom Metal”, but all in all their mixture is carrying some other stuff as well.
At the end of the day, I would consider this album as one of my top picks so far, yes I mean for the ongoing 2019 tear. It is sure a release that would stick on my stereo. It is dark, epic, obscure and it is based on excellent songwriting. Oh the songwriting! A feature that so many band’s of today unfortunately lack.
HAIL to SMOULDER!