Atmospheric black metal isn’t necessarily an oversaturated genre, but with so much out there it’s not always easy to discover new music that stands out — but what are some of the musical traits that do separate the wheat from the chaff? Ability to balance both melody and heaviness, dynamic songwriting, incorporating outside sounds, and naturally the atmosphere are a few things that come to mind. Blaze of Sorrow tick all these boxes with their seventh full-length Vultus Fati, a truly triumphant album that may prove to be some of the best black metal released this year.
First single “Flammae” set my expectations for Vultus Fati pretty high as it perfectly executes what great black metal should do. There’s only a handful of different riffs in the song (all centered around a primary melodic line), but they’re given slight variations as the song ebbs and flows over its six-and-a-half-minute runtime. Similar to the cello-laden debut from gothic doom duo Tribunal the music here is great on its own with just the metal instrumentation, but there’s a secret ingredient in the cauldron that completely elevates Blaze of Sorrow: mournful viola. Thankfully it’s not a one-and-done guest appearance either, as the instrument is featured on nearly every track of the album.
“Flammae” is a great track and fortunately the rest of Vultus Fati manages to live up to the expectations it sets. While I’d hesitate to consider this a folk metal album, the most compelling aspect of Blaze of Sorrow is their command of melody that’s reminiscent of folk-related metal. Sure, there’s a healthy dose of acoustic guitar interludes alongside the aforementioned viola (including two entire tracks, “Waldgänger” and closer “Aura”), but this album is still firmly rooted in the intensity of black metal. Standout track “Eretica” slows things down a bit from the blast-beat and double bass-driven ferocity present elsewhere, before acoustic guitar chords lead into a rousing finale driven by one of the finest melodies on the entire album.
Aided by the haunting viola the atmosphere here reflects antiquity, yet it manages to never feel like it’s alluding to a specific time period — leaving this up to the listener’s interpretation is one of the most powerful aspects of Vultus Fati. Additionally all of the lyrics are in Blaze of Sorrow’s native Italian which lends to the overall authenticity. The metal tracks tend to be on the shorter side (at least for an atmoblack band) at five to seven minutes, but there so much dynamism here that no song either feels like it ends abruptly or meanders through numerous segments too quickly.
Masterfully contrasting folk-adjacent melody with blackened fury, acoustic guitar and viola with distortion and blast beats, light with dark, Blaze of Sorrow have crafted a tremendous album with Vultus Fati. Despite having six full-lengths under their belt this was my introduction to the band, so I’m very excited to discover the path that led to this album. If the caliber of exultant darkness showcased here continues in future releases, it will be imperative for black metal fans to keep an eye on this band.
Vultus Fati will be available March 31 through Eisenwald. For more information on Blaze of Sorrow check out their Facebook and Instagram pages.