Blaze of Sorrow – Absentia Review

It’s amazing the things you discover lurking around the Promo Pit. Blaze of Sorrow is not a band that has been on my radar, but between that album art (I mean, look at it), that name (Absentia is such a cool name it nets you twelve band name search results on Metallum), and the promise of “windswept, cascading black metal [that] is undoubtedly melancholic at heart” (I know, I know, marketing copy is marketing copy, but what can I say, it sounded good), I was sold on Blaze of Sorrow’s Absentia before I’d heard a single note. This Italian four-piece, once the one-man project of the mysterious Peter, has a lot to live up to if my expectations are anything to go by, but with album art like that, how could things go wrong?

A funny thing happened through my first listen of Absentia. I listened to the slow, grand, and grim build of opener “Settimo Requiem” waiting to be blown away by the blistering fury of a sobering storm. As I listened through Blaze of Sorrow’s fourth full-length, I never really found that overwhelming windswept cascade of melancholic anything. Listening through Absentia, I can hear the subtle influence of atmospheric, melancholic black metal acts; Winterfylleth, maybe, or Falls of Rauros. The melancholy, however, feels like a secondary element to the band’s appreciation for the almighty riff. “Notturna” opens with such a catchy, foot-stomping barrage of riffs and leads that I expect Jorn himself to declare dominion when the verses begin. The melancholy is there in the undercurrents, reflected more in raging growls and screams than in the lead solos and riffs. In this sense, Absentia feels like it borrows more from Mob Rules than Agalloch. It feels more like black metal meeting traditional heavy metal than it does a blaze of overt sorrow.

This is not a bad thing. Again, the sorrowful elements are there, but I’m telling you, these riffs are catchy. The aforementioned “Notturna” is infectious, and the tremolos that open “Hybris” are great to nod along with. “Cupo Dissolvi” is a great blend of traditional metal riffing and the band’s black metal style, including an acoustic interlude and fantastic growls atop mid-tempo, inventive riffing. Blast beats are far from a constant companion, but work well when they arrive, with leads and tremolos enjoying roughly a roughly equal presence. Across Absentia, Blaze of Sorrow manages to walk this interesting line between styles and if it isn’t exactly what the band’s promotional material suggests, it still comes together really well and results in an enjoyable record from start to finish.

Although enjoyable, there are two criticisms I would level against Absentia that hold it back somewhat. The first is that some of the songs blend together, especially after repeated listens. Blaze of Sorrow has a formula, and, for the most part, they stick to it. That the average song length is close to seven minutes with comparatively little in the way of breaks or interludes can lead to some ear fatigue, especially with the guitars as high in the mix as they are. And speaking of the mix, my second criticism is that the drums are far too low in it. They are quiet. Very quiet. Too quiet. A lot of the album thrives on energetic riffs and loud harsh vocals, so the drums being low in the mix is not a good thing; it takes away so much potential energy from the album by essentially forcing the guitars to do all the lifting. And while they do so admirably — everyone is playing their hearts out — there’s only so much they can do in this regard.

At times fun, at times melancholy, and often bringing both at once, Absentia is a strong album that has me wanting to dive into Blaze of Sorrow’s back catalog as soon as possible. The album ends on a bittersweet note, in the form of the acoustic instrumental “Morte di un Immortale.” It’s a great number, but it feels like the conclusion of a different album. Listening to it makes me wish that Absentia had been a bit more “windswept, cascading black metal” than it wound up being. Still, despite the disconnect between my experience and the band’s vision, Absentia is a solid, enjoyable album that I am happy to recommend.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Eisenwald Records
Websites: |
Released Worldwide: April 24th, 2020

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