Review Summary: Atmospheric and evocative, Times of Obscene Evil and Wild Daring is a great slab of epic doom metal.
Over the last years, Canada has given us some of the best underground heavy metal. From Borrowed Time and Tales of Medusa, to Manacle, Possessed Steel and Traveler, the scene is brimming with potential. A common trait among those acts is their impressive ability to bring together a number of influences but still retain their personal style and identity.
Smoulder is no exception to this rule, as their epic doom metal will bring Solitude Aeturnus, Candlemass and Solstice to your mind, even though they’re not afraid to go into an early-Blind Guardian power metal mode as evident on “Bastard Steel”, the LPs fastest song. Actually, the first half of the album is faster and revolves more around epic doom compared to the slower second half. Judging from opener “Ilian of Garathorm”, one may compare the Canadians to Eternal Champion. However, the Americans lean more towards traditional metal and have a more barbaric tone to their music, compared to the epic doom mystical atmosphere of this one. Nevertheless, a common trait between the two, is that both of them create a Moorcock-inspired universe, which can also be deduced by looking at the cover art, and works like a charm. That, combined with Sarah Ann’s dramatic approach to singing, creates a cinematic atmosphere which, to my mind at least, exudes an aura of ‘80s Swords and Sorcery films like The Beastmaster
Two notable differences between Times of Obscene Evil and Wild Daring
and the EP that preceded it, are the significantly improved performance especially on guitars (check “The Sword Woman”) and the more engaging songwriting. The Canadians’ debut is quite consistent and, unlike their neighbors Toronto Raptors, delivers even on its final stages on its longest track, the monolithic for the album’s standards, Reverend Bizarre-influenced, “Black God's Kiss”.
Overall, the LP will please equally fans of epic doom and epic traditional metal, as it brings together the best of both worlds, while the production, handled by Arthur Rizk (Eternal Champion, Sumerlands), has made Smoulder’s sound bigger. It’s not an exaggeration to put this one on the same level as Eternal Champion’s The Armor of Ire
and Visigoth’s Conqueror's Oath
as one of the best modern traditional metal albums, and given that these guys continue to improve, we might be up for something really special in the future.