Review Summary: Full circle and a glimpse into the future.
Scattered around the globe, Sojourner have managed, in six years of existence and with three albums on their back, to build a solid fanbase, becoming one of the best kept treasures of the atmospheric black metal realm. The band's evolution has been notable and intense. From their orthodox black metal beginnings in 2016's Empires of Ash
they reached last year's Premonitions
, an album where they sailed towards gothic and epic metal waters leaving their most aggressive black metal roots on the shoreline, a change of course that not even the band seem to be fully satisfied with.
Like every other band on the planet, touring dreams vanished in the haze and the folks at Sojourner had time to go through some self-reflection after a time that main composer and axe man Mike Lamb described on a recent video uploaded in their social media as a "difficult time for every member of the band." This process had some sad but unavoidable outcomes: Long time member Chloe Bray left the band followed by the band’s bass player, Mike Wilson. On the other side of the spectrum, the remaining members, growl master Emilio Crespo, Lamb, and drum maestro Riccardo Floridia, had time to look back to the band's roots, which seemed to be the key to close this first period of Sojourner while materializing this new EP. Aptly titled Perennial
, this new recording also serves as an introduction to the band's newest members, vocalist Lucia Amelia Emmanueli, and guitar player and also divo Tom O'Dell, as well as the confirmation of Scotty Lodge, who joins the band permanently on the four strings after a long time playing live with them, sometimes as a third guitar player.
is a short, very short EP. Two tracks are included on the band’s most recent work, with one of them being a rehash of “Heritage of the Natural Realm”, the second track of their debut. On the other hand, it’s more than enough to paint a very clear picture of what you can expect from Sojourner in the future. The title track opens with whimsical piano notes and alluring flutes before getting into business, with Crespo's growls commanding a crushing riff and giving way to Lucia's vocals, which hover gracefully over a furious blast beat. Here come the first impressions: Lucia, and for the sake of easy comparisons, is technically a better singer than Chloe, and I would like to stress on "technically", since, as the track shows in the second half, she has much more control over her voice, more power and range, and is capable of jumping from a melodramatic performance to screaming emotions leaving technique aside, which is something I personally love. Chloe, on the other hand, albeit being a great singer, especially on Premonitions
where she showed how far she had progressed from their first album, had this slightly imperfect texture that, in my opinion, made Sojourner somewhat distinct and special. The second half of the song shows the potential of this new Sojourner, as Lucia introduces an absolutely killer riff courtesy of Mr. Lamb and a great finale driven by some communal vocals that really caught me by surprise, and that I hope the band exploits in future endeavors.
The second track, "Relics of the Natural Realm", and stated above, links beautifully with the second track of the band's debut. Longtime fans will quickly recognize those first piano notes and that flute melody, which used to be instrumental, but now they serve as a base to showcase, not only Lucia's fantastic singing, but also new recruit, Tom O'Dell's silky vocals, a combination that gives Sojourner a dimension they didn't have until now, and that certainly shows promise if used wisely.
With this new EP, the band from... everywhere, writes off an epitaph as well as a new chapter of their career. If you’d ask me, I'm sad that songs like "The Deluge" from their last full length, which is probably my favorite Sojourner song and one of my most played tracks last year, belongs now to the band's past, but it's also interesting to see how they are going to adapt some of this old material to the new formation. It’s time for Sojourner to go past the moss-covered ruined palace that adorns the cover created by artist and friend of the band, Jordan Grimmer, (for the second time now, don't think I didn't notice), and go further exploring new lands. Whatever they find, I’ll be here to hear the tale.