It’s been quite a long time since we’ve brought you something from beyond the world of metal, but like the mighty halogens and the noble gases, we’re back with something less metallic in nature but just as compelling and righteous. Blood and Sun’s sophomore release Love and Ashes is an album that I could not pass up the chance to review, and it’s a perfect excuse to bring back some content that hasn’t been getting a lot of love in these hallowed halls recently. This is Rainbows in the Dark, featuring the best of all things non-metal and metal-adjacent.
Blood and Sun is the dark neo-folk brainchild of Luke Tromiczak, singer/songwriter /multi-instrumentalist/wanderer/dreamer/all-around good guy. While Tromiczak handles most of the instrumental and vocal duties, Love and Ashes features many contributions from a large cast of guest musicians, many of whom are featured on Blood and Sun’s debut. This is an album with a lot going on, in contrast to a lot of neofolk out there that relies more heavily on atmosphere and minimalism. Love and Ashes features mandolins, cellos, accordions, lots of percussion, guitars and violins courtesy of Nordvis heavyweight, and frequent Panopticon collaborator, John Becker. This dense instrumentation serves the album well and keeps it thematically in line with the classic American traditionalism that permeates Blood and Sun’s aesthetic.
The most distinct sound of Love and Ashes is Tromiczak’s deep baritone, which rumbles and cuts through the mix of instruments in a surprisingly subtle way. It carries a lot of weight, but he does a good job of controlling how much attention he deserves in the moment, because there is a lot to compete with. All the instruments featured blend together a little too much in some spots, sometimes it’s hard to pick out the subtler components. Most of the time, though, this lends a heavy quality to the music, despite this not being a metal album. The opening track “Resurrection Charm” is definitely a heavy song, with lots of deep strings, low tones and percussion that I’m pretty sure is just a chain being slapped around. It’s dark, it’s brooding, it’s everything that a metal song would be if only there was some distortion slapped on top of everything.
In contrast, songs like “Dusk Century” and “Madrone” are bright and upbeat, with a beautiful and mesmerizing sense of melody, the latter of which also puts out an almost Mumford and Sons-esque vibe in the strumming and drumming. My favorite track on the album has got to be the centerpiece “By What Road,” a love song that features John Becker at his finest and makes me want to pack everything I own up, grab my dog and my girlfriend and drive as far as I can away.
As much as I love a good slappin’ metal album, I also listen to quite a bit of folk music, and I know this is an album I am going to come back to for a good long while. It’s dark and heavy without being overwhelming; it’s bright and melodic without being saccharine; it’s rooted in traditional American folk but it doesn’t once mention tractors or beer or the fit of one’s denim pants. It ticks all the boxes I have for what a good folk album needs to do to move me, and if you’re looking for something a little off the beaten path, then I would highly suggest you give this a shot.