Divine Element - Thaurachs of BorsuBased on my review stats thus far into my AMG career, I’ve got a 66 percent chance of snagging a record featuring Spectral Lore guitarist Ayloss whenever I pull an I, Voidhanger release from the promo bin. It’s easy to see why the label is so eager to back his work; he’s one of the few black metal guitarists I can recall who possesses a unique playing style, slapping an unmistakable stamp onto pretty much every product he touches. But before he staked his claim to black metal fame with Spectral Lore, he cut his teeth on Divine Element. Formed in 2002, his epic metal project never gained traction due to line-up changes and international band members; as a result, Thaurachs of Borsu is only the band’s second release. With the roster reduced to just Ayloss and vocalist Antonis (with studio help from none other than Hannes Grossmann (Alkaloid, ex-Obscura) on drums, Divine Element has developed an admirably focused sound and a damn fine record.

Thaurachs of Borsu is an epic metal album with an original fantasy concept, and no, it sounds nothing like (Luca Turilli’s) Rhapsody (of Fire). Drawing on pagan black metal and melodic death metal influences, it comes across as a careful splicing of Windir’s melodic, elongated guitar lines and the primitive melodeath of early Amon Amarth. It bears a sound that is at once familiar and fresh; I’ve listened to dozens of records in this vein, yet Ayloss’ swirling, calamitous guitar wizardry lends Divine Element an unmistakable identity that most bands of this style sorely lack. What’s more impressive still is that ToB, though clearly a focused vision, is surprisingly broad in scope. The pendulum swings broadly from black metal (“On the Trail of Betrayal”) to death metal (“Traitor’s Last Stand”) without losing momentum or sounding disjointed, and the various instrumentals provide welcome breathing room amongst the chaos. DE consolidates all of this into a refreshingly brief thirty-eight minutes, making for a package that’s as concise as it is dense.

I admire Divine Element for their brevity, but ToB’s short length betrays their minor songwriting inconsistencies. There certainly isn’t a bad number to be found, but as there are only five non-interlude tracks, the weaker ones (particularly the title track) stick out despite only being a short step down in quality. I don’t think that the symphonic interludes should have been done away with completely as they really do lend Thaurachs of Borsu credence as a conceptual work, but the record’s brief nature can occasionally make them feel like filler material, taking up space that full songs could occupy. A sixth full track could have rounded out the record nicely and made it feel like a better value in the process, but ultimately I’d rather that Thaurachs of Borsu run a bit short than risk being overlong.

Divine Element 2017

Though the record as a complete package may be a touch sparse, the individual compositions are fully fleshed out, self-contained epics. “On the Trail of Betrayal” in particular is monumental, featuring complex tremolo lines that extend and evolve in a methodical, upward trajectory before blossoming with grandiose, emotive melody. “Beyond This Sea,” though much slower paced, is similarly impactful; an emotive dirge with an undercurrent of hope, guaranteed to jerk a tear or two from any would-be Vikings. I do wish that the vocals were just as impactful, though; Antonis is a fine growler but lacks any distinct traits to help him stand out from other death metal vocalists. The production doesn’t particularly stand out either, yet I actually quite like its throwback qualities. Sure, it’s loud and the bass is barely detectable, but the tones utilized capture the spirit of mid-to-late 90’s black metal without sounding unnecessarily lo-fi.

Thaurachs of Borsu is a strange addition to I, Voidhanger’s catalogue; the label is typically known for distributing records that push the boundaries of their respective genres, and Divine Element feels relatively pedestrian among its ranks. While it may not find an audience with avant-garde junkies, Thaurachs of Borsu is a very impressive record, packed with huge, explorative compositions and guitar performances brimming with emotion. If you’re yearning for a high-quality pagan foray with a unique conceptual bent, you could hardly do better than this.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: I, Voidhanger Records
Websites: divineelement.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/divineelement61
Releases Worldwide: May 19th, 2017

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  • Wes Allen

    Ayloss is a prolific dude. Feels like he’s involved in an album every year. No complaints here.

    • Kronos

      It’s crazy how much some people put out. Pat Tougas put out records with Chthe’ilist, First Fragment, Zealotry, and Serocs within the span of 12 months last year and all of them were excellent.

      • Nathan McCain

        Philip Tougas?

  • Dethjesta

    I was listening to this record this morning and my conclusion is pretty much the same as yours (except you used more words. And used said words better. And made better comparisons. In fact all I really said was ‘kinda like Amon Amarth but with folky bits and more harmony guitars’)

    It’s good though.

    • rumour_control

      Love this. Well played.

  • Reese Burns

    Windir, you say? I’m interested.

    • Diego Molero

      Favorite Windir album?

      • Reese Burns

        Depending on my mood, either 1184 or Arntor, though recently 1184’s been getting more play outta me.

        • Diego Molero

          That’s the answer I was expecting. I like you more now.

          • Reese Burns

            Aw shucks, now I’m blushin’

  • drug_genosh

    ive been really digging this record since I came across it and have just about burned up all my bandcamp free plays across all of my assorted devices (don’t worry ill pick up a physical copy when I can). I get an edge of sanity vibe which is great because I could always use more of that. oh and yes, certainly epic!

  • Jeff Manteiga

    This man’s prolific releases leave me at Ayloss for words.

  • Utterly off topic:
    Will Dødsengel be dissected. Computer says it’s a DR11, only… I kind of don’t agree.

    • Drew Music

      I was hoping for the same thing. Dunno anything about the DR myself, but what I’ve heard so far sounds spectacular, musically speaking.
      In the meantime, I’ll be here puzzling out my judgment of the self-titled Ulsect album. I think 3.5 is safe and accurate, but it seems to be growing on me more and more with each spin.

      • I place Ulsect practically right up there with Dodecahedron (which I finally got around to hearing properly about a week ago).

        I find it difficult to rate such music, though.
        The terrifying carousel moves in so many parallel dimensions that it seems impossible to find some kind of guiding principle or axis of reference to grab a hold of. Both albums consist of volatile chaos in all its complex smoke-like shades and contours, dammit.

        • Kronos

          I was going to review that Ulsect record but time for away from me. I’ll have to check it out. They do share a member with Dodecahedron I think.

  • AngryMetalBird

    I hadn’t checked out neither Divine Element nor Spectral Lore. double win!! thanks

    • mtlman1990

      III is a fucking masterpiece. It is the best atmospheric BM album in my shitty humble opinion

  • VikingSchism

    This seems very interesting, I’m going to have to give it a listen, and look into the other work that Ayloss has been involved with

  • sir_c

    The title track melikes so far. I’ll put this on my list. Nothing groundbreaking though, but definitely worth a listen. thanks!

  • R.Daneel Olivaw

    this is fucking awesome

  • pfk505

    Killer album (as was their first).. Ayloss can do no wrong. His guitar work is second to none!

  • Lithophyte

    Got to say – loving this. Disagree about the fillers. They give it that epic, cinematic grandeur.

    • Eldritch Elitist

      They absolutely do. I just think they take up a ton of space on such a short album.

  • Lou Daz

    This is pretty dope. I love the guitar work in the embedded track.

  • Bryan Stroup

    Reminds me of Demonoid a bit, or maybe Therion on Lumeria.