I have noticed in the last fews years there have been many stellar atmospheric black metal albums. Bands like Caladan Brood, Lustre, Dreams of Nature, Eldamar and many more, have done an amazing job crafting such epic and fascinating sounding releases. Sojourner is an up and coming atmospheric black metal band that released their debut full-length album, "Empires of Ash,” in May of last year. The band has teamed up with Fólkvangr Records and will release the cassette version of the album March 31st.
For this article I have decided to review the album since the band is going to be releasing a cassette version. I remembered listening to a couple songs off the album last year on Lightfox177’s youtube channel. After being sent this promo for the release of the cassette version, I think it is time for me to evaluate and see what Sojourner was able to accomplish with this debut full-length release. Are they on that same atmospheric black metal level as some of the bands I listed in the first paragraph?
To begin, the band’s sound invokes that cinematic feel one might find on a Summoning album, or the many other bands who worship Summoning. Their music is melodic yet has that grim black metal sound to achieve a contrast of atmospheric splendor. The opening song, “Bound by Blood,” does a great job getting listener’s attentions right away and the composition is well thought out. Instead of using the guitars to create more distant sound, the riffs are very prominent during the song. Overall, the opening track reassures listeners that Sojourner is capable of writing solid atmospheric black metal music. However, does the band do that for the rest of the album?
The following tracks continue the sound and style from the first piece, but I find the music to not be as compelling and dynamic as I would have expected. There are plenty of great soothing moments that break away from the fury of the guitar and drum aggression. I just felt like the band played it safe a few times. The second track, “Heritage of the Natural Realm,” has very captivating sounding moments and would have liked to have heard that more throughout the album.
Sojourner also goes for a very somber tone at times like with the song, “Homeward,” that I think is one of the best tracks on the album. The incorporation of melodic clean vocals with the black metal style does work at times, but is subject to moments where I thought they band could have just used the black metal style. Lastly, I want to point out how the music conveys a very epic tone. You find yourself imagining a fantastic world of nature and old majestic kingdoms beyond our mundane society full of lazy people enslaved to technology.
In the end, Sojourner’s, “Empires of Ash,” is a really good sounding first album full of long epic atmospheric black metal tracks. Unfortunately, there are bands who compose atmospheric black metal that have recorded some utterly brilliant albums and in my opinion Sojourner is not yet on that same level. I do believe Sojourner are talented and have the potential to write some amazing music since there are definitely moments on this album I truly enjoyed. If you are a fan of atmospheric black metal I do recommend checking out Sojourner, because the music is without question better than any of that progressive metalcore bullcrap.
Sojourner "Bound by Blood" :
Sojourner Facebook Page: