Review Summary: Heartfelt Black Metal that progresses and pays homage to the genre.
Due to the bands near 20-year dormancy, it’s doubtful that Sun of the Sleepless is a name you’ve heard numerous people murmuring about in the black metal scene. Fronted by Ulf Theodor Schwadorf, the brains behind Empyrium and The Vision Bleak, “To The Elements”
is the band’s first full-length album, despite forming in 1998, and is the first piece of proper material Sun of the Sleepless has unleashed since the band’s split EP with a band named Nachtmahr in 2004.
Furthermore, the black metal dirges that “To The Elements”
comprises of may sound like the collaborated talent of an entire band, however, Sun of the Sleepless is a solo project of Schwadorf in every sense of the word- every note played and every bit of production has been crafted entirely by himself. Boasting a fixated vision, “To The Elements”
is an album dedicated to upholding black metal’s rich ancestry while simultaneously creating a contemporary sounding album that intensifies Sun of The Sleepless’ incandescent appeal.
In keeping with the naturalistic aura that surrounds this album, the craftsmanship of “To The Elements”
is like the structure of a tree (pardon the underwhelming metaphor). Branches of alternating aspects and genres such as post black metal, Norwegian influences, solemn singing and poetic lyrical inspirations are all connected by the album’s atmospheric trunk: primarily the core concept of the album and thus having a strong influence on each song. Finally, the roots of this body of work are symbolised by a traditional black metal impact on this album. As much as this album illuminates the genre, it clearly pays respect to bands such as Emperor, Burzum and Rotting Christ.
No matter how immersed “To The Elements”
is in black metal’s antiquity, it projects a resonant flow where the differentiations between retro, modern and experimentation collide into a single, captivating sequence. “Motions” demonstrates how Sun of the Sleepless is able to effortlessly glide between everlasting storms of thunderous tremolo and maintaining a regal sensibility, which continues throughout the album, through majestic chanting and melodious charges on guitar. All this is undertaken while sacrificing no amount of black metal traditionalism since tracks such as “In The Realm of Bark” and the glorious “Phoenix Rise” demonstrates the grim ferocity that the genre was built upon through icy blasts of breathless drumming, impending riffs and cold growls. Yet, the balance between frost and warmth Sun of the Sleepless strikes is continuously present throughout these traditional songs through cleanly sung choruses, melodious interludes and spiritual wails.
Another key aspect of “To The Elements”
is the vivid imagery the album projects and the title itself pays credit to the ritualistic, rustic atmosphere that Schwadorf illustrates. Complete solitude is evoked during “The Owl” through morbidly lonesome acoustics and preceding riffs that claw their way through the darkness. Similarly, the ceremonial “Forest Crown” is entirely acoustic, however, despite this simplistic approach, this is not lifeless music, on the contrary, it’s bursting with emotion. “Where In My Childhood Lived A Witch” displays the balance between traditionalism and modernity mentioned above, moreover, it evokes otherworldly imagery particularly through the lyrics but also through the melancholic stalking riffs and trembling, tumultuous melodies before finally fading out into a nightmarish sleep. Finally, a fascinating feature on the aforementioned “Phoenix Rise” is that the song begins and eventually dies with the same emotional chanting- as if the song is truly resurrecting like a phoenix. This kind of devoted, expressive vision is what makes “To The Elements”
such an engaging record. Doubtless, Sun of the Sleepless is a name you’ll be soon hearing more frequently.