Soulburn - Earthless Pagan SpiritSoulburn, despite the lack of output over the last two decades, possesses quite the rich history. Starting off as the successor to death/doom overlords Asphyx in 1996 before they returned in 2010, drummer Bob Bagchus adopted the Soulburn name again in 2013 in a project featuring fellow Asphyx member Eric Daniels and Swedish one-man death-metal factory, Rogga Johansson. Johannson split before the recording of 2014’s The Suffocating Darkness because, I would assume, Soulburn is just one band too many for him. Two years later, here we are with the reincarnated band’s second release with Century Media (and third overall), Earthless Pagan Spirit. As Bagchus left Asphyx in 2014 to concentrate on his Venom-and-Bathory-lovin’ baby, was this a wise move?

Once the delightfully-worded “Where Splendid Corpses Are Towering Towards the Sun” launches, you are hit with the stench of old-school blackened death metal that reminds one of the bullet-belts, fingerless leather gloves, and battle vests covered in classic Celtic Frost and Bathory patches. Daniels and fellow guitarist Remco Kreft (also of Grand Supreme Blood Court) maintain a mid-paced tremolo riff throughout most of the song while Bagchus performs a simple drum pattern. Bassist Twan van Geel (Flesh Made Sin) maintains a Venomous sneer throughout the song, retaining clarity and bite. This is not a bad thing for about a minute or two. Six minutes of this, though, shifts the mood from “an interesting tribute to the halcyon days” to “please end already.”

That problem permeates throughout Earthless Pagan Spirit. Beating a riff to death, or stretching a song to the point of tearing, weakens the overall product. “The Blood Ascendant” suffers from overuse of the awesome chorus riff, as well as plodding verse sections. Its seven-minute runtime also diminishes the impact created. “Withering Nights” catches the ear due to the siren calls of an unknown female wailing1, which caught the ear better than about 90% of the material on here. Even closer “Diary of a Reaper,” at only four minutes, feels like it’s plodding on forever, thanks to van Geel and the aforementioned Mysterious Lady of the Windmill talking monotonously over a simple guitar line and drums. Not singing, nor chanting. Talking. It’s a shame, really, as parts of the album, like the opening of “The Torch,” grab the listener convincingly.

Soulburn 2016
The Magnus “Devo” Andersson mastering doesn’t help, either. While the guitars possess bite and heft, the drums sound off, especially the cymbals. The rasps of van Geel cover the instruments like a blanket smothering a fire. But the worst offense lies in the songwriting. Nothing engages like it should. Parts of songs that work repeat to the point of not working anymore. Songs themselves say what they need to, and yet they keep talking ad nauseam et infinitum. The album wants me to raise my fists, but I can barely raise my eyelids open while it’s playing.

And this is why I have a hard time recommending Earthless Pagan Spirit. While there are no musical mishaps, nothing on here begs me to play it again. With the pedigree contained within Soulburn, to say that’s a disappointment underlies just how bored I was listening to it. If you want throwback blackened doom metal, there are better alternatives.

Rating: 1.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Century Media Records
Releases Worldwide: November 18th, 2016

Show 1 footnote

  1. I would name her, but not only didn’t I find any information on who it was anywhere on the Internet, but Century Media felt it was appropriate to enclose the one-sheet to 2014’s The Suffocating Darkness, instead of the album you are reading about right now. Yeah.
  • brutal_sushi

    7 seconds into the embedded track and I lost interest.

    • Grymm

      That was brutal… sushi.

      • brutal_sushi

        Your outcome of this release seemed pretty… Grymm?

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Yikes… When even Rogga Johansson leaves, you know something’s up.

    • Grymm

      Dude, right?!

  • Oscar Albretsen

    This style in general usually puts me to sleep if I listen to it in extended lengths. These guys sound pretty similar to alot of other death/doom bands I’ve heard. Nothing really wrong with ’em, I just don’t have the attention span for it. Probably the meds I’m on.

  • Totally unrelated question, but is Serpentine Dominion getting a review at any point?

    • Norfair Legend

      It’s good, buy it.

      • Give it a chance

        Yeah, listen to this guy. I wasn’t big on idea of KsE instrumentation + CC vocals initially but it just clicked for me somehow.

  • Mark Z

    The band name really makes me want to listen to Just Before Dawn’s ‘Soulburner.’ And judging from the embedded track, that’s probably far better than what these guys are putting out.

  • jersey devil

    I have to disagree with this review and all the comments pasted so far. My opinion is based only on the embedded song. Listening to it, I sure wasn’t falling asleep. What are you guys talking about, losing interest after 7 seconds? That song rocked (and, at least for that one song, was way higher than a 1.5). I think reviews bias people toward agreeing with the review.

    • GardensTale

      OR OR OR you could just have a different opinion. THE POSSIBILITIES

      • jersey devil

        I considered that possibility.

    • ScDaymon

      I totally agree with you man. The song is really cool (“losing interest after 7 seconds” WTF x 2) which lead me to listen to other stuff in youtube. I totally disagree with that 1.5. I really like this site (so as others) but I must confess that I really don’t care that much about the evaluation they give as much as the style, the cover or the references they give!

  • AngryMetalBird

    There is this …uhm… other album that’s coming out this week. I’m curious to hear AMGs take on it

  • Actually dug it

    Definitely not a 1.5 at all dude but yeah, opinions & shit

  • Elton Chagas

    I actually liked the embedded track a lot.

  • Anon.

    Am late to this cuz I didn’t even know Soulburn had a new one out. I agree, it isn’t their best work by any stretch but I dig Eric Daniels guitar playing so much that I can’t help enjoying it despite some lulls.

  • Here’s Johnny

    Just noticed this review…what a pile of shite.

    Great album.