By now, the more astute of you are aware of my promo selection process. If you’re just tuning in, I select bands based on the following criteria: my own listening history of the band (naturally), the band’s back story, and their naming conventions. That last one has unearthed some amazing gems. Other times, it bit me in the ass hard. Italy’s Svlfvr (pronounced “Sulfur” and not “SVILFIVOR,” sadly) caught me with not only their name, but also their beautiful purple-and-green album cover for their debut full-length, Shamanic Lvnar Cvlt. With an eye-popping cover and complete shunning of the letter U, how does Svlfvr place in the doom metal crowd?
Thankfully, Svlfvr borrowed from some of the greats in classic doom metal, namely Solitude Aeturnus, and early My Dying Bride. The big difference here is vocalist Dionysus mostly keeps to an almost black metal rasp, and not the smooth, soaring melodies of Solitude Aeturnus‘ Robert Lowe. And when he shrieks and howls, as shown during the title track and “Wish to Drown in a Abyss of Water,” he sounds downright maniacal. I love when new vocalists add fresh ideas to a well-worn sound, and Dionysus quickly drove a stake into the earth here. The man displays some serious confidence and versatility early on.
It doesn’t hurt that he’s surrounded by a talented band. Guitarist Asmodeus effortlessly switches between tremolo riffing and somber atmospherics, giving “Wish to Drown in a Abyss of Water” an almost Shores of Null feel. His lead guitar playing, such as on the title track and “Countdown to Death,” show great restraint and very rarely overstay their welcome. Drummer Poseidon keeps the flashiness to a minimum, preferring to let the riffing do the majority of the work. When he does step outside the box, such as on “Wish to Drown in a Abyss of Water,” it propels the song further. However, it’s Dionysus that steals the spotlight, as his distinctive howls, screams, and bellows guide the canoe through the fog.
Shamanic Lvnar Cvlt impresses, but not without some serious flaws. For starters, the production is suffocating and brickwalled. Vrolok LaVey’s bass playing, while heavy and thick, sounds fried half of the time, as on “Countdown to Death.” Also, there’s only five songs on here, and it’s a 56-minute album, with the shortest song, “Wish to Drown in a Abyss of Water,” still clocking in at just under nine minutes. The biggest offender, closer “Dying Star’s Empathy,” clocks in at over 20 minutes. That wouldn’t be such a problem if it wasn’t the album’s weakest song, save for Asmodeus’ tasteful leads during the second half.
Still, Shamanic Lvnar Cvlt is an impressive debut from a young act with a creative spin on doom metal. With a little work and some self-editing, I see Svlfvr moving on to great things in the future. Promising, and one to keep a close eye on. Besides, that cover art is absolutely gorgeous.