Review Summary: A landmark of beauty, sorrow, and daunting rage.
Take what Ulver’s fantastic folk album Kveldssanger
did for Black Metal, namely prove that a hardcore Black Metal band such as Ulver can indeed show amazing folk-inspired craftsmanship, and combine it with deep Doom Metal growls and Black Metal-like hissing, and then you’ll have something along the lines of what this unknown Austrian band has crafted here. The shocking display of craftsmanship and musicianship here is enough to give this a 4 without hesitation, but what really drives this album onto the fence between a 4.5 and a 5 is the way it simply captivates the listener, bringing all shreds of daylight and hope out of sight and out of mind. Estatic Fear is mysterious, releasing only two mesmerizing albums before virtually dissolving into thin air. Everything is used to its fullest potential; the piano, the flute, the cello, the keyboards, the acoustic guitars, the electric guitars, the thundering drums, the clean vocals, the harsh vocals, even ambient noises prove to wrap the music in an irresistible shroud of loneliness and melancholic beauty.
From the mundane to the epic, every emotion which makes metal and folk music what it is is portrayed with that kind of detailed thoughtfulness which takes a band of this caliber more than three years to put together. Now for the catch. This album was recorded, in its entirety, by one man
. With the previous band members departed, the final remaining member Matthias Kogler partnered with a few guest musicians to put this together. As soon as this came to my attention, my jaw dropped. The guitars here show musical skill which is off the charts, knowing when to come to the forefront for a distinct melodic riff or two, then slowly fading it’s way into the background as another of the instruments takes the stage. Flutes, violins, cellos, and more folk related instruments add noticeable atmospheric lifts throughout the album, culminating together into a kind of Folk Metal show of power. The drums are nothing short of flawless, with an almost unearthly thundering effect and some seriously powerful double bass kicks and cymbal crashes.
Vocally, the ripping screamed vocals remind me a whole lot of Mirrorthrone in an almost uncanny resemblance. However, don’t expect vocals to be present at all times. Say there is a 10 minute track (such as the pinnacle track “Chapter IV”), I’d say vocals are present for no more than 4 minutes of the entire track. This shows you how seriously instrumentally-driven this album is. Whether the vocals are the aforementioned screamed vocals, or the Doom Metal-like low guttural growl, or haunting and calming female clean vocals, the variety here is daunting in it’s complexity, it’s unwillingness to drive the music, and it’s pure rage. Don’t think of it as 10 separate tracks. Think of it as an epic fantasy story with a prologue, followed by 9 amazing chapters. The ebb and flow is written with the utmost attention to detail and some of the best, most intricate instruments I have heard in a really long time. It’s unique in the way the instruments drive the vocals, not the other way around. I give my respect to Matthias Kogler for doing this nearly by himself. I give my respect to those who contributed each of the instruments to this album. I give my respect to the unwillingness to write something which has been done before.
It’s impossible to classify A Sombre Dance
into one genre, it’s like a melting pot of the best of Folk Metal, Progressive, Black Metal, Symphonic Metal, and Doom Metal all thrown into this gargantuan masterpiece. But as the storm ceases, as you are drawn back into reality, you will realize that there is not a single reason why you shouldn’t buy this album. For $5 on ebay, there is no better way to spend that money than on this seemingly unknown work of art. You owe it to yourself, and you owe it to the sheer brilliance of this album.