Breaking down genre barriers in an atmospheric, melodic and sophisticated way - A review of Screaming Savior's ''Semblances of the Void''
Fifteen years after its foundation and four years after its space-themed record Infinity for which the band also received critical acclaim abroad, Chinese symphonic black metal group Screaming Savior comes back with eight new tracks in form of the album Semblances of the Void. With this record, the band conquers the Asian symphonic extreme metal throne. This album outplays similar groups such as Taiwan’s Chthonic easily. This release should get the group even more international recognition.
The sextet from Shanghai offers a consistent yet diversified symphonic black metal record that goes away from the slightly progressive space sounds of the predecessor to opt for a more prominent use of traditional Asian folk instruments. Sometimes, these influences even recall the neofolk genre in the instrumental parts. Overall, the atmosphere is even more intense on this album than on its predecessor thanks to epic keyboard sounds that sometimes work as efficient background layers and sometimes as massive classical influences giving this release a more cinematic, majestic and sophisticated touch. Thanks to different song ideas, this album never sounds overwhelming, predictable or repetitive. The group ventures into gothic metal territories with desperate clean vocal performances, melancholic guitar melodies and mysterious piano sounds in several tracks. Overall, this album is very melodic and much mellower than anything the band has released before. While genre purists might dislike such a more compromising, eclectic and harmonious sound, this kind of release might find a lot of new fans who usually don’t listen to any black metal music and rather prefer folk, gothic and symphonic metal genres.
An instant highlight is the beautiful opener ‘’Expiation’’ that combines atmospheric symphonic mid-tempo passages with more engaging up-tempo parts featuring cold riffs and pitiless blast beats. The good balance between deep growls and fierce screams meets enchanting folk sounds and memorable guitar melodies. The exotic lyrics sung in Mandarin Chinese only add to the authentic and immersive atmosphere. This song probably represents the band’s philosophy and sound best on the new release. The cinematic ‘’Trial of Birthgiving’’ includes a neofolk break led by calm acoustic guitars and samples of a baby being born to add to the lyrical topic. The melodic highlight ‘’Solemn Semblances’’ features mysterious organ sounds, harmonious guitar melodies and more prominent clean vocal parts reminding me of gothic metal bands like The Vision Bleak. ‘’Mask of the Void’’ is a continuation of this style and its second part is the most melodic extreme metal track the band has ever written. A true surprise comes around with the brilliant instrumental song ‘’The Cabin in the Woods’’. This neofolk song is dominated by calm piano and violin sounds mixed with appeasing samples of nature sounds before a haunting, mysterious and uneasy hissing emerges from the background. This great track makes me think of a sad fairy tale that starts in a harmonious way and ends up being more and more sinister towards the end. This song should be used for the soundtrack of a mysterious horror movie or video game.
Screaming Savior has managed to release this year’s most atmospheric, eclectic and imaginative extreme metal record that breaks down genre barriers and should please to anyone who admires emotional, melodic and profound metal music. This fantastic voyage might only last forty-three concise minutes but I ended up revisiting this release numerous times and discovering new facets with each spin thanks to a surprisingly balanced and professional production. Since physical copies of the record aren’t available outside of the group’s home country yet, please support the band by downloading its album on the band’s Bandcamp presence: https://screamingsavior.bandcamp.com/album/semblances-of-the-void
Final rating: 95%
P.S.: Please take a look at the interview I made with the band almost four years ago in English and French: http://kluseba.eklablog.com/screaming-savior-14-01-13-c19437057
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