Review Summary: Post-blackened-doom metal that’s neither a hit nor miss.
If you were to take a step back and gaze upon the metal scene today, you might notice how every sub-genre is absolutely over-saturated with talent and talentless bands trying to etch their mark into the mountain that heavy metal has become over the last ten years. Some of these bands absolutely hold true to the essence of what their idols were trying to create, pushing the boundaries further and expanding upon on a template that had originally set the bar high. Some of these bands clearly don’t have a clue when it comes to putting together their influences into something that isn’t blatant plagiarism or a false hope of outdoing their peers. And then there are bands such as U.S. post-blackened-doom band Velnias who fall somewhere in between these two categories. Velnias’s debut album Sovereign Nocturnal
contains many fine qualities but just can’t quite distinguish itself from the pact of metal bands trying to stuff as many wonderful arrangements as possible into a single song.
Taking their name from a figure of the ancient Baltic Mytholog, which represents the natural world (source: http://www.metal-archives.com/index.php), the listener will have no trouble in establishing why the band would choose this name. Opting for a production that sounds much in vein with Opeth’s Morningrise
; a frosty coating that clearly lets the clean parts ring out and loud parts sound meatier, Sovereign Nocturnal
also plays out like an Opeth album too, utilizing the loud/ soft progressive dynamics that are compressed into three songs that all surpass the twelve minute mark. The “name-that-band” comparison game doesn’t stop there either as clearly shown on the twelve minute monster opener, ‘Into Arms of Oak’. Beginning with the hoot of an owl and Paradise Lost like, slowly tromping powerchords, the band gradually flows into an Ulver tinged black metal trance passage and follows up with a Neurosis sludge metal assault. Just when you think you’ve been thrown around with the many changing dynamics of the first eight minutes of the song, we are introduced to a folky passage that Agalloch has accomplished many times before (and done better on that fact as well). Top this off with a raspy black metal voice and you can picture the opening track on this disc.
With this description of the opening song, you can simply switch around these arrangements and you will begin to understand what Velnias is all about. It’s not that these arrangements feel forced together, but it’s the choice of their influences that they choose to mimic. Neurosis, Agalloch, Ulver and Opeth are all very much exciting bands when used sparingly and Sovereign Nocturnal
is a prime example of too much of a good thing; not enough originality to push these influences into a new realm of metal. The ideas strung together feel drony, putting myself to sleep through some of the overdrawn passages and this could also be due to the choices of musical direction influenced by their forefathers. However, Velnias is onto something big here and their mighty ambition, as demonstrated on Sovereign Nocturnal
, will only push them to tighten up their ideas on their sophomore album. This is still a solid debut and I would hope people’s interest in Velnias next endeavour might be sparked after one listen to this.