I’m not going to lie. I chose to review this promo on the basis that Draugnim sounds like Draugr – an entity which should be familiar to fellow Elder Scrolls nerds. On this basis, I predicted vaguely folkloric Scandinavian black metal. Indeed, Vulturine boasts Finnish Pagan metal similar to a popular band whose new album is also soon to drop.
You like Moonsorrow right? Everyone likes Moonsorrow. Draugnim likes Moonsorrow. Nowhere is this more evident that on opener “That Name is Hate.” It’s clear as soon as the typical ‘falling rain’ introduction passes into meaty, blasting black metal, but particularly as the track picks up at the 1:44 mark. The guitar tone and melody is so incredibly similar that I could easily have been convinced it was actually Moonsorrow‘s new material.
To be fair, as Vulturine progresses it’s distanced from such overt homages. Melodic black metal is the name of this dish: it has a slightly epic flavor and there are a couple of delicious cuts. Second track, “As in Hunger, so in Demise,” seriously steps up after 3 minutes and accelerates into several razor-sharp riffs. “Drums of Black Death” is another highlight, developing its inter-locking melodies throughout before intensifying at its conclusion. These 2 songs absolutely rip, with a weighty, bass-heavy mix, strong melodic sensibilities and ferocious vox.
It’s a shame, then, that the remainder cannot match this level. It would be over-zealous to assert that only the aforementioned tracks are worthwhile but the other 3 don’t progress beyond pleasant. Despite their attempted brutality, all they amount to is a gentle, superficial glaze over your lower faculties – I found myself unable to focus on them specifically and merely enjoyed them in the background as I was engaged in other activities. They don’t demand your attention in a way that I can truly endorse. The riffs aren’t forceful enough, the melodies not memorable enough and the track developments never become engaging enough.
Cultivating this point, I definitely feel like Draugnim aren’t quite as heavy or evil as they intend to be. The macabre song names (see above), Biblical quotes on their Bandcamp and intentionally perverse cover art (the Latin translates to ‘While there is life, there is hope’ which is unsubtly juxtaposed by the lifeless skeletons) would all suggest svper trve black metal intent on unremitting darkness. Instead, Vulturine is quite pleasant. Pleasant isn’t a great descriptor for a metal band and less so a black metal band. I would prefer for the whole to be rawer, more sinister and more challenging.
Another black mark against their name is the production. The dynamic range score of 7 obfuscates a reality blemished by severe clipping. It isn’t severe throughout but rears its ugly head at particularly inopportune moments – namely those where the music escalates at its most epic passages. “Drums of Black Death,” which I love musically, is crippled by popping noises and sounding flatter than it should. All this is exacerbated by my being on a Camel kick recently, which sounds so bright, vibrant and dynamic by comparison.
I’ve been stern but these guys nearly have it. Two tracks are excellent and the rest just need their song-writing sharpened slightly: slicker hooks and a slightly blacker outlook would go a long way. An improved production job would assuredly help too. Perhaps next time.