ALBUM OF THE DAY: SEAR BLISS’ THE ARCANE ODYSSEY
It’s rare when I hear a black metal band these days that really makes me sit up straight and listen intently; so many recent bands in the genre are repetitive and boring. I’m not even a particularly big of a fan of black metal. However, Sear Bliss‘ performance on The Arcane Odyssey certainly has rekindled my hope and love of black metal. It combines symphonic, melodic, and raw elements to create a truly epic album – in terms of both songwriting and expert instrumentation.
Sear Bliss is a black metal band that knows how to write songs that are catchy and listenable as well as heavy. Even when there aren’t defined choruses and verses in the songs, there is definite structure, which keeps the album powerful and doesn’t lead to any monotony. The buildup in “A Deathly Illusion” is just so well-done that it makes me want to continually listen to it. “Somewhere” is so heavily structured that it’s practically insane, proving that you don’t need excessively br00tal breakdowns to be heavy.
The guitars are definitely a key factor in the excellence of this album. Again defying the black metal stereotype, they include passages of clean guitar work (listen to the opening of “A Deathly Illusion”). Sear Bliss’ distorted tone is equally as powerful; it doesn’t have too much treble or too much bass, and adds a lot of emphasis to every riff. There are not a whole lot of solos, but there are some, and they are usually good. The band uses harmonics really well on songs like “Somewhere” and “Blood on the Milky Way.”
But the most refreshing aspect of The Arcane Odyssey is the use of the trombone. (I have to wonder if the utilization of brass instrumentation was an influence on Ihsahn, who employs saxaphone on After.) The grace with which the trombone fills are executed is inimitable, and generates an overwhelmingly triumphant feel throughout the whole album. Brass on this album really does it all: it acts both as a lead and a rhythm instrument exceedingly well. It even takes solos.
My only real complaint about the album would have to be that the vocals, while initially interesting, are probably the band’s weakest link. They’re not even particularly black metal, to be honest — the vocalist mostly sticks with his raspy midrange growl. It’s pretty cool, and definitely works well with the music, but it’s simply not that interesting.
Overall, however, The Arcane Odyssey is truly an odyssey – -one that has a glorious result. Pick this up now if you’re a fan of any sort of black metal whatsoever, and even if you’re not, I’d recommend it.