Review Summary: A ethereal journey of balance and self-discovery.
Suldusk is the brain child of Emily Highfield, who hails from Melbourne, Australia. From the band’s not-so-distant beginnings, it’s always been a solo project with session musicians, conceived by a woman who is clearly not content with female contributions in metal being limited to soft and heavenly vocals and backup instruments. Nor should they be. In her early years dabbling in music, she talks about blatantly going against what her peers listened to or expected of her , delving into metal and even providing lead vocals for a thrash band. When that young angst inevitably wore off, she cites getting into bands like Agalloch and Opeth : bands that are front-and-center as core influences on her now debut full-length album Lunar Falls
. Armed with the support of producer and fellow Melbourne resident Mark Kelson (of The Eternal
) as well as a German label, the album emerges as an impressive collection of atmospheric neo-folk with black metal and post-rock incorporation. It ends up being quite a stunning debut and seamless mix of genres that could have so easily clashed in the wrong hands.
The themes of the album can be quite obscure and objective to those who may listen, but the undeniable central theme is an ongoing balance of light and dark coming through the music. It speaks to the dichotomous nature of all human beings, and explores a person’s journey of self-discovery, learning to live with both sides inside them. Emily’s serene voice shines brightly over the lush acoustic guitars in songs like “Nazaré” and “Catacombs”. On the beautiful folk-tinged “The Elm”, a song she rewrote from a Trees of Eternity
song in commemoration of their deceased singer, her voice glides and soothes in angelic fashion. She likes to refer to this side of her as the “Maiden” or “Mother”. However, things can turn stormy in the blink of an eye, with her darker personality breaking through in songs unexpectedly. It’s one she favours referring to as the “Crone” in interviews, with a witch-like black metal howl emerging in the heavier sections of the album. She juggles both sides very well, even if she does favour the softer side throughout the entire listen, both are unleashed enough to appease different audiences who may prefer one extreme over the other.
As mentioned, the influences here are noticeable almost immediately. Thoughts of albums like Damnation
or The Mantle
will surely run through listeners’ minds during their first listen. The songs where she blends it all together end up being the most impressive and memorable. Previously released songs “Solus Ipse” and “Aphasia” resound loudly with proggy Opeth-ian song structures and feature strong showcases of Emily’s vocals over both subdued and chaotic instrumentation. Her voice, quite frankly, soars on their choruses and it’s astounding to hear. Closing track “Sovran Shrines” has three distinct stages: an Agalloch-like acoustic/electric guitar exchange with soothing vocals, a more patient post-rock passage with light, feathery croons, and a final build to a catastrophic blackish post-metal outburst topped off with blast beats that fade into the abyss. It’s stylish and well-produced, not as accessible as her shorter ventures, but certainly the most rewarding track and defining statement of the album.
is an astounding collection of songs that features uncharacteristically strong song writing for a debut album. In her future albums, she definitely has room to further explore her more volatile side and have the divergence in sounds be even more amplified and effective. The album gives off the feeling that something bigger could be unleashed once she becomes even more comfortable in her performing abilities. Make no mistake though, this project is a resounding success and wonderful marriage of folk and black metal. It's something fans of Opeth and Agalloch need to hear before the year is up. The ideas at work on Lunar Falls
are thrilling, and I can only hope a rewarding career awaits Emily as she continues to hone her craft.
 Moyle, Tracey. (2019, April 9). Interview: Emily Highfield Of Suldusk On Debut Album 'lunar Falls'. Retrieved from https://gclive.me/2019/04/09/interview-emily-highfield-of-suldusk-on-debut-album-luna-falls/
 90.3 WMSC FM. (2019, April 2). An interview with Emily Highfield of Suldusk. Retrieved from https://soundcloud.com/wmsc/emily-highfield-of-suldusk