Band: Sear Bliss
Title: Letters From The Edge
Label: Hammerheart Records
Release Date: 6th July, 2018
Format reviewed: High quality digital promo
I’ve been around long enough in this game to have heard most heavy music that counts – I have a profound love and undying passion for this art form and simply cannot get enough of it. And nothing thrills me more when I get to hear something that reaffirms just why this shit matter so much to me! My feelings are heightened further when said material comes from one of my all-time favorite bands. This July, that has happened – I give you, Hungarian Atmospheric Black Metal masters, Sear Bliss.
25 years in existence and some six years since their last opus, Sear Bliss has returned with album number eight – the magnificent ‘Letters from the Edge’. As clichéd as it may be, Sear Bliss is like a fine bottle of wine you bought in ’93 – full bodied and laced with unique character, quite distinctive from the other bottles on the shelf. 25 years later, you would find a similar magnum – still possessing the same qualities but one that has aged significantly, yet is oh so mature in its ability to hit the mark with every drop! That is exactly what ‘Letters from the Edge’ sounds like. A band that knows exactly what its strengths are, a band that uses their own self-styled template of black-metal and tweaks the play set with smatterings of experimental twists and turns along the way. It’s familiar, but never stale. It’s accustomed but still fertile.
Six years since the equally enthralling ‘Eternal Recurrence’, Sear Bliss have again gone to their bottomless well of creativity and conjured up another 10 track epic that easily sits alongside their most glorious pieces of work (’04 Glory and Perdition, ’98 The Haunting). The great thing about Sear Bliss is that even though you know what you ‘might’ be getting, they never disappoint in finding another way to slay! To these ancient ears, LFTE sounds like a band dipping their toes in all areas of their past and wrapping it around their decidedly unique atmospheric palette – masterfully mixed and produced to manufacture a truly stunning piece of work that is both hauntingly beautiful, passionately fragile and triumphantly epic in nature. There is a majestic potency in the songwriting on LFTE that is indeed, pure magic.
As a comparison, it is possibly true that, overall, LFTE is a cleaner, more progressive mid-tempo Atmospheric Black Metal affair than we may have witnessed in the past. Yet, from the opening blast beat tremolo laden riffage and the scathing Andras Nagy vocals on ‘Forbidden Doors’ you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. But this is what Sear Bliss do – throw the listener down familiar paths, yet with sublime directional change, they are able to move you to something just to the left of centre in order to keep it interesting. LFTE has that movement covered throughout its entire length, ending just as it started with the all-out blasting culmination on the brilliant closer ‘Shroud’.
Of course, no Sear Bliss album can be discussed without observing the use of their iconic secret weapon – the Brass section – The Trombone of Zoltán Pál. Forever Sear Bliss’ point of difference – no other band sounds like them because of it. Others may try; it is futile. Once again, Zoltán’s work is truly exquisite in the way he able to weave his dark melancholic notes throughout the eight (there are two short instrumentals) full length compositions on offer here, without ever resorting to tokenism. On this album at least, Zoltán’s trombone is more subdued in its prominence, yet the expressive, emotional color that he adds to his bandmates musicianship cannot be understated at all. Truly, the use of the Trombone is the most brilliant sleight of hand that Sear Bliss has in its arsenal. They know it, and they utilize it with the absolutely spectacular effect!
I cannot fault this album too much. Yes, I’d love some more full-throttle blasting elements (only because they are masters at it) and perhaps Andras’ vocal attack could have been a little more prominent, but really I’m splitting hairs. As with nearly everything this band attempts to convey, Letter from the Edge is a powerful, emotionally stirring album. Parts of it (The Main Divide/A Mirror in the Forest/Haven) is seriously tear inducing such is the emotional gravitas involved here. Overall, LFTE serves as another example of high quality Atmospheric Black Metal from a band that, really, deserves far more exposure and recognition. Comes with the highest recommendation. One of the albums of the year! 9.5/10 KMaN