You will no doubt be unsurprised to know that I was into this Dutch band nearly 20 years ago when they released ‘Feeding On Angels’ in 1998 and filled the void left by Asphyx and could be classed as the sixth Asphyx album depending on your point of view. “Feeding On Angels” was, and still is, an excellent album and I’d urge you to track down a copy as it has been reissued a couple of times.
When Soulburn was resurrected for the comeback album “The Suffocating Darkness” in 2014 I pre-ordered the vinyl immediately without hesitation and was utterly stoked and impressed when I heard it. Whereas the debut was more like Asphyx the sophomore stepped sideways into blacker realms for a record that oozed malfeasance and conjured up images of malicious spirits despoiling your very essence of existence and I thought that was that for Soulburn. Two years later and the second album of the bands modern era and third overall has appeared and sees the band running the gamut of all things raw, unfettered and saturated in blackened toxicity.
Opening the album is “Where Splendid Corpses Are Towering Towards The Sun” with no intro piece and straight into a scything high tone riff and pulsing drum sound that has a raw tone I particularly like. Most of the tracks span the five minute mark as the opener delves into the doomy end of the spectrum with tortured morbid vocals as the track expands with a slow pernicious riff backed by a thumping kick drum beat, with cymbal emphasis that eventually leads into a squealing banshee like lead break. I really like the sound on this, it has that aura of being recorded in a sewer with a slight echo and gutter trawling riffing that “The Blood Ascendant” ably demonstrates maintaining a slow funereal like pace as the blackened breath vocals are noxiously exhaled before slowing via a pervading riff that evolves into true Soulburn loathing.
What this album does extremely well is choke the listener with miasmic dirge like riffing coupled to gruelling despondency as “Howling At The Heart Of Death” which sees the tempo increase fluidly but still harnessing sonic corruption and defilement. The balance between all out speed and sepulchral solemnity is one that this band does extremely well as “Withering Nights” offers a demented twist to the album by inserting female vocals. As the thrashing riff starts the track and the vocal vomit emanates it is followed by a wail of epic proportions that lifts the track as a massive stand out. The track is diverse, burrowing down into a slow melancholic aura and tormented vocal style and just when you thought it was safe the female vocals return with a soothing tone that enable the song to be that bit different overall.
The doom aspects of the bands are intact as “Spirited Asunder” begins with a slower riff and deliberate pace that marches inexorably onwards towards your own funeral so to speak. As the track develops it delves into an obliquely oppressive lead break that listens like cawing carrion crows picking at the remnants of your existence and made even more chilling by phantom like clean vocals that work extremely well. The album closer is a curious one, being experimental and spanning three minutes plus of weird effects and echoing vocals as though you’ve crossed the threshold into a dominion that equates to your own living purgatory.
This is caustic album, drooling with murderous intent but also glistening with an obsidian sheen that encapsulates the wholly terrifying experience.
(9/10 Martin Harris)