Iceland appears to have overtaken Finland in terms of metal bands per capita, and Sinmara are one of the more recognisable names hailing from the land of fire and ice. After causing quite a stir with their 2014 debut album “Aphotic Womb”, the intertwining five years have seen Sinmara garner a reputation as a fearsome live act. A sprinkling of EPs and split releases has helped them hone their chops between albums, and as such, this is a highly anticipated release.

The boundaries between black and death metal have become ever more blurred over the years, courtesy of the dense impenetrable atmospherics peddled by luminaries such as Abyssal, Ulcerate and Deathspell Omega. Where Sinmara dabble in such suffocating soundscapes, they manage it without becoming fully enveloped in the fog of dread, and it’s this crushing, optimistic forward momentum that gives them an edge over peers.

Their labyrinthine guitar work offers some catchy memorable riffs and melodies, and coupled with ambient outros on compositions such as “Mephitic Haze” and the closing title track, this accentuates the atmospherics, puncturing the desolate gloom with glimpses of (dare I say it!) hope and redemption.

The drumming here is extremely tight, favouring consistency over flair. It maintains a middling pace throughout, and though never accelerating to frenetic blasting still manages to convey a pummelling onslaught through clever use of fills.

Sinmara are bleak band with a bright future, and I hope we don’t have to wait five years for the next album.

(8/10 Doogz)