Review Summary: Amplifying the power they behold
While Smoulder made a strong showing of epic doom with 2019’s Times of Obscene Evil and Wild Daring, a track like “Bastard Steel” was enough to suggest that there could be more to the group’s sound. Violent Creed of Vengeance makes due on this promise, pairing the pre-existing chunky riff sets and ominous atmosphere with uptempo rhythms more aligned with power metal. If the first album was a largely lofty affair ala Candlemass’s Nightfall, then their second is more in the vein of the ripping ‘fast doom’ seen on Trouble’s Psalm 9.
With the band retaining a consistent recording lineup across both full-lengths even as members moved to other countries, they prove to be more than capable of handling the shift at hand. Much has already been made of the vocal improvements and it’s certainly great to see their already-solid presence emboldened with greater power and dexterity. However, I find the drums to be even more indicative of this change with more aggressive hits and double bass attacks throughout. Thankfully the guitars also never slouch with heavier tones and plenty of spry leads.
Going along with that, the songs do well to integrate the broader pool of influences when it isn’t highlighting their contrasts. The opening title track immediately reflects adjusting priorities as its building tempo is beset by snarling guitars and charging drums. “The Talisman and the Blade” and “Path of Witchery” push those speeds even further with stirring results while “Spellforger” fully commits to high octane power metal. Even a down-tempo track like “Midnight in the Mirror World” has some extra weight behind its shuffle.
On the epic side of the spectrum, the tempos on “Dragonslayer’s Doom” may be more mixed than its title would suggest but it’s a climactic closer that offers epic metal splendor across nearly ten minutes. I must admit that “Victims of Fate” might be my least favorite track compared to the others, but goddamn if them getting Michael Moorcock in for the opening narration isn’t the coolest power move I’ve seen from a newer band in some time.
Smoulder is yet another example of an already great epic metal band putting out an even tighter sophomore album in 2023, but it’s especially great to see them do so with a more pronounced change in attitude. The speedier style comes naturally to the band as the musicianship feels suited to a punchier approach while still featuring that lingering essence of doom. It’s always inspiring when a band wants to move forward with their sound and even more satisfying when they put in the work to make it happen. In this regard, Violent Creed of Vengeance passes with flying colors.