Shield The Light In A Veil Of Darkness
Special Review Request
I was recently contacted by Jim Greco, bassist/guitarist and vocalist of Saturnine. His band straddles genres of Black/Doom and Death, so I was instantly intrigued since I enjoy all those genres. I'm also the type of listener that loves bands who enjoy creating multi-faceted metal albums, and when Jim asked me to give a listen to Shield The Light In A Veil Of Darkness I was excited.
This record came out as an independent release in 2020, but before we get to the review, here's a brief introductory history of the band. Formed in Jacksonville, Florida (by Jim Greco and Bobby Marcum); the band began in 2004 and released a 4 song E.P. in 2012. Two years later, A Living Symbol Of Your Demise (2014) was released as the debut full length. As you can see, they certainly have a penchant for long album titles, but that's not a bad thing at all; it's just something I noticed.
Now on to the review. I wasn't sure what to expect since I had not heard any of their previous music, but when I started "Earthbound Realm" I was hooked. The track is an ominous sounding instrumental that is slow and deliberate with it's pacing. Usually with these type of tracks starting an album it will lead into a blistering track that follows. Of course this is exactly what I was thinking when "Permanent Black Memory" roars to life in a raucous menagerie of tonal blackness. About halfway through the song shifts into a hypnotic trance then grows into this impressive banger of shrill vocals and heavy guitars. I really liked how the song was capped off in that fashion.
"A Grave For The Taciturn" continues in a similar vein, however I feel the shrill sounding vocals get drowned out a bit. It's a shame because I normally I enjoy blackened vocals of this type. As for the song though, the track elects to push doomy guitars; accentuating the overall quality to top levels in my opinion. Now "Hated Lives" is a beast of a track for the length (clocking in over 10 minutes) and providing a template of doom flavoured black metal. I think it's challenging a bit on the ears, but there's enough of a sonic drone that starts out great and pays off big time at the close.
The next track "Interminable Bloodline" is a short and rousing number with a quickened pace, but the vocals barely register pass as a whisper and hurts the overall appeal for me. It's okay though because "Graven Sharp Vermin" hits hard with the meaty guitars up front and it also sports one heck of a song title. The track packs a punch, especially when the vocals add a little variation with death metal growls and backed by manic percussion. This is arguably my favourite track
"Siberian Perseverance" is short and right to the point and works well as an instrumental piece. However, that is backed by the second longest track "Cursed Ruin" (clocked at 8:03) and runs the full gamut of black metal tropes. The band pile on the drone fuelled vibes with the guitars and drums and top it off with the shrill vocals. What I do like here is how the song fades out with just over a minute left into a slow ominous/soundtrack/vibe ending. That was really neat. Then we end our journey with "Earthbound Void" complete with all the fixings of the black metal drone heard throughout this record.
Saturnine bring a consistent tone and style on this release. The album is about 45 minutes of black metal compositions with doom and death metal flourishes in spots. My one minor complaint is the vocals are pushed back too far and often are drowned out on some of the songs. Although, I feel this is an overall approach to most bands in this genre; It's just my personal taste, but I like hearing shrill vocals. Beyond that one small gripe, there's much to like here and I would enjoy seeing another album that improves upon the aesthetic.
Favourite tracks: Permanent Black Memory, Hated Lives, Graven Sharp Vermin.
Kenneth Gallant, HMS