posted on 8/2008 By:
I'll preface this review by explaining that this album, in fact, is primed for album of the year for me. The best piece of atmospheric metal I've yet to hear this year and despite its slow pace and its need for a truly applied listen, it is conquering every speaker I have available right now.
Velnias is from Naperville, Illinois and the band is described as a blackened folk/doom band and while that is an accurate description, it doesn't truly summarize what's going on here. The band's sound relies on a cross between Isis-ian post-metalry, Agalloch's serene acoustic soundscapes and post-Mardraum Enslaved's aural maelstrom. This reminds me of so many bands and albums but the music itself, for the most part, is very original and you could not pigeon-hole this band with any band or genre mentioned in this paragraph.
"Into Arms of Oak" kicks off with the sound of a thunderstorm in the distance and while being a completely appreciated hats off to Black Sabbath, it sets the tone for Sovereign Nocturnal quite accurately. Velnias relies heavily on epic riffage and they never sound tired or short on ideas. The music played here is played with the utmost intensity and there's a lion's share of atmosphere and emotion being conveyed here. For only being a two man band, this is highly impressive.
"Risen of the Moor" begins with some very subtle acoustics and some well placed tom work. Around the 2:00 mark, the band picks up the pace with some very very well played Opeth impersonations. It works to a T and vocalist P.J.V. displays an impressive range from high black metal screams to the death metal bellow found on this track. The Enslaved comparison is most apparent on the middle chunk of this song as there is some truly Isa and Ruun-esque riffing going on here. Discordant, off-time, bleak, and still effective. Velnias, like Enslaved, are not afraid to wear their love for 70s prog on their sleave.
"Sovereign Nocturnal" is the most impressive track on here as it is nothing but seamless transitions from beautiful acoustics to soaring-epic riffs for 15 straight minutes. There is a serious black metal tonality to what Velnias does and there is a rawness to the production here that lowers their score, but does not injure it. P.J.V.'s howls around the 3 minute mark are as grim as they come. But it is truly the riff found at the 9:30 section that digs this album into my top ten for the year. I won't spoil it for any of you, but epic is the word. The album then drifts back into the thunderstorm that it began with, thus completing the circle.
The only reason I'm not giving this album straight sixes is because the production is intentionally not perfect and the musicianship obliges to the atmosphere more than the technicality. Yet, both of these critiques are incidental. These are three of the best atmospheric metal songs I've heard in years and if you can stomach just one more atmospheric semi-black metal release this year (or for the rest of your life) then I would point you to Velnias without any hesitation. Well done.
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