A long drawn out intro opens you up to the atmospheric black world of the one man machine that is Runespell. A guttural growl then gives permission to ‘Retribution In Iron’ to open up and showcase the musicianship of Nightwolf. The vocals and guitars work in unison to create a wandering, meandering cold path along the desolate landscape of this release.

‘Destiny Over Discord’ unbolts with strong heavy drums to a chorus of vocal chants, again creating a mystery to this release. The guitars and drums are decent enough, it just seems to be lacking the simple concept of depth, and it just feels like it is leaving you hanging in mid-air, waiting for an injection of majesty. The track intermittently slows and then quickens and this all seems to add to the frustration of the track not being able to just give that bit extra.

‘Claws Of Fate’ speeds things up from the offset, but again, the production and audio could have been tweaked to allow for a more voluptuous sound, and a greater beast to have been conjured up. The fretwork is demonic in its portrayal and Nightwolf is sounding at his most sinister. It’s malevolent in its deliverance, and while the vocals are raw and enchanting, the backline just doesn’t seem to replicate in this aspect

‘Nights Gate’ is an instrumental and it is gloomy and atmospheric of colossal proportions. It is set at the mid-way point of the album and it almost gives the listener some respite, but is also strategically placed in order to truly emphasise the core of the release and remind everyone that’s made it this far, that Runespell are fundamentally music of the atmospheric black arts wing of this world. It is spell binding and although repetitive in its portrayal, it is one which holds you under the spell to the end

‘Wolf Axis’ allows the vocals to be exhibited and this time, sitting parallel to the raw blackness, there is almost an element of doom ridden within these vocal talents. The track is slow and plodding, some would say giving rise to an atmospheric aura, but it really is verging on the doomier end of the spectrum. The track seems to tread water once it’s found its plateau, and it doesn’t sway either way, instead, it is more than content to straddle the snow covered mountains of the track.

‘Blood Martyr’ picks up the pace, and to my taste, is the highlight of the album. The guitar work is intricate and competent and this sits alongside the drum work which is quicker than anything seen previously on the album. Again, the vocals are demonic, probably their rawest and most convincing and. the only negative is that the sound and production, still seems a little amateurish, whether this is on purpose to try and create a more atmospheric feel, or if it’s just to do with the fact that this is only the 2nd full length release is still to be discovered.

‘Prey For Redemption’ really does finish the album off in style, its powerful, dark, deep and robust in its structure. The sound is rounder and smoother in its approach than its forefathers, and there is definitely more immorality and ambiance which helps lift this from the depths of despair.

The vocals are the gem on the floor of this doomy, ambient and atmospheric forest, but unfortunately the vocals don’t save it from being a recommendation only for the true atmospheric black metal lovers amongst us.

(5/10 Phil Pountney)