As pointed out by our highly esteemed El Cuervo, Suidakra is perhaps one of the most productive bands on the planet. Including this year’s Realms of Odoric, the band has dished out twelve albums in nearly twenty years (including an early-career period where the band was releasing an album a year). As would be expected from such a grueling timetable, not every album is spectacular. However, I can’t say any of their albums flat-out suck (well, Command to Charge is close). Mainman and founder Arkadius (for those not in the know, the band name is his name in reverse) has worked hard to maintain a steady stream of consistency from album to album. After a brief period of folk/pagan black metal releases, these German admirers of folking Celtic metal took a deathier approach on 2000’s The Arcanum and forever changed their direction on future releases. In a nutshell, Suidakra incorporates the folkiness of some of my favorite “E” bands (Eluveitie, Ensiferium, and Equilibrium) with the melodic heaviness of groups like Be’lakor, and the orchestral atmospheres of Rotting Christ and Wintersun. Though the last couple outings have not struck the same chord as Caledonia and Crógacht, this year’s Realms of Odoric reminds one-and-all that Suidakra‘s release schedule is still worth those regular Facebook notifications.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say 2011’s Book of Dowth and 2013’s Eternal Defiance were disappointing, but the band’s originality and memorability indeed took a hit following gems like Signs for the Fallen, Caledonia, and Crógacht. Being worried that the band had gone flatline seems silly after getting my hands on Realms of Odoric, but I would be lying if I said it hadn’t crossed my mind. And, honestly, the opening drum assaults of “The Serpent Within” (follow-up to the Wintersun-inspired synths of opener “Into the Realm”) are so similar to Command to Charge‘s “Decibel Dance” that cold chills run up my spine. Thankfully, the similarities end there, as more of the Time I influences break open the introduction of “The Serpent Within,” sending it into a beautiful combination of harsh vocal spewings, symphonic death metal melodics, and the signature male/female clean vocals found throughout Suidakra‘s back-catalog.
“The Serpent Within” makes for a great opener, but the best has yet to come. However, what you consider to be the “best” on Realms of Odoric is completely dependent on your current mood. Perhaps you’re in the mood for big, catchy choruses layered atop upbeat folkish tempos and vocal patterns as addictive as morphine? Well, Realms of Odoric has these creamy toppings coating ditties like “The Hunter’s Horde” and “Pictish Pride.” Maybe you need more melody and mid-paced attitude in your lives. Well, look no further than the Rotting Christ-ish “Lion of Darcania,” “On Roads to Ruin,” and “Dark Revelations.” None of these doing anything for you, you say? Well, perhaps, Tina Stabel’s female leads are what you seek. If so, check out her forceful, yet angelic, deliveries on the very groovy “Undaunted” and her gorgeous contribution to the male/female duet of “Braving the End.”
No matter your mood, there is something for (almost) everyone on Realms of Odoric. For me, its tracks like “The Serpent Within,” “Undaunted,” “Pictish Pride,” and “Braving the End” that have me dropping everything and questioning nearly every life decision I’ve ever made [Clickbaiting is no way to go through life, son. – Steel Druhm]. “Braving the End,” in particular, is about as ballady as folky ballads get. The combination of Stabel’s vocals and the low-rumbling Peter Steele-like male leads are quick to swell the eyes and cause lumps to form in the throat. Additionally, the placement of these numbers is spectacular, exaggerating the effect of intermittent tracks like the Tom Warrior approved “Creeping Blood” and the one-two punch of closer “Cimbric Requiem” and follow-up bonus track, “Remembrance.”
Minus the less-memorable moments of “One Against the Tide,” the highly-compressed mastering job (at times dropping to a DR4), and my personal struggle with wanting the Type O Negative-meets-Moonspell “Remembrance” to be the album closer, Realms of Odoric is a hypnotizing effort and one of the best of the band’s discography. From beginning to end, Realms of Odoric is a complete, powerful album that grabs hold and never lets go. It’s safe to say this one has already secured a spot among my top ten.
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3
Label: AFM Records