Canadian epic doom/US power metal at it modern finest is how I would best describe Smoulder. This is a band I once again discovered trawling through an online music platform.  It’s no doubt that their influence comes from Solitude Aeturnus, Cirith Ungol, Candlemass, Mercyful Fate and Manilla Road, the magic is their combination of all such influence.

Sarah Ann’s vocals are incessantly strong and powerful, this is immediately noticeable on the up tempo opener ‘Ilian of Garathorm’. This is a US power metal feel that has those doomier elements present, more so of an undercurrent. ‘Bastard Steel’ is really immense, and combined with ‘The Swordwoman’, it’s akin to the feel of MF’s music, albeit with a completely different vocal approach. Yes we have fantasy driven themes, this is thought provoking, like the nine-plus minute track and closer ‘The Black Gods Kiss’. Yes even some Iron Maiden homage to that bands finest period (as told during the galloping ‘Shadowy Sisterhood’).

As a full package, the production is full and vibrant (courtesy of mixing and mastering handled by Arthur Rizk – Eternal Champion). Then I have to comment on the artwork which is amazing and was painted by Michael Whelan (Cirith Ungol). This takes me to reliving my days of record buying in the 80’s, this album cover will tell you its “proper metal mate”!

Overall, as I suspected after listening to their demo many times, this debut album is indeed as good as expected, it’s a really cool package and a sound that’s been missing over the last few years. I would expect them to be in Germany next year on the festival circuit, especially with some members attending certain festivals in the next few weeks (it’d be fitting and no surprise!). I would suggest more an album for more US metal fans than pure doom enthusiasts, but it would feature heavily on either fans playlist as it’s the art of crossing those boundaries that are presented here, a strong release overall.

(8/10 Paul Maddison)