Firelink – Firelink Review

It’s only been thirteen months, but here we are. A new Firelink record. For those who missed it, The Inveterate Fire burst out of nowhere in May of last year, searing the ground with each blackened step through the burgeoning field of Dark Souls-themed metal. Melodic, devastating, and deceivingly mature, that first Firelink shrine blazed high up my year-end list. Needless to say, my expectations for Firelink reached unreasonable temperatures immediately after first learning of its release. Now that I have my greedy little tendrils around it, does it Ember my soul as the last one did?

Part of what makes Firelink special is their sneaky use of major key. Nothing they pen frolics in major from beginning to end, like Astronoid or Disperse songs might, but when those moments arrive they soar. That has not changed on their sophomore effort, but the two records share fewer similarities than I anticipated. The tone, structure, and progression of story and sound each take on a different character than they did before, even though the music itself is unmistakably Firelink. In this case, these contrasts make Firelink both a worthy successor to The Inveterate Fire and, oddly, the lesser of the two.

I say that not to condemn the album. In fact, Firelink is a strong outing that rewards listeners unafraid of time investment. Opener “Cerulean Athenaeum” introduces the record with one of its more introspective clean-picked melodies. Soon the track explodes into a blasting fury, with a big riff storming in around the two-minute mark. From that point onward, Firelink utilize greater quantities of harmonized guitar leads and deep growls, which do a great job of making the song feel emotionally connected, yet dangerous. This particular dynamism is retained album-wide, and represents the band’s main draw—and that’s taking their gaming roots into account. “Where Demons Bore” and “Kingseeker” feel the most attached to the Dark Souls theme, with the first recalling Smouldering Lake from Dark Souls 31 and the latter exquisitely implementing samples of dialogue by Ingward, the Guardian of the Seal. While Firelink‘s impeccable translation of game lore to music thrives, it once again shouldn’t dissuade a n00b from gleaning enjoyment from the material, as the melodies remain emotive, the storytelling still compelling. Perhaps the greatest development on Firelink is the inclusion of real drums, with session musician Kevin Paradis expertly wielding fully upgraded Hallowed Sticks of Infernal Pummeling. The natural tones and feel of the drums in this installment makes the programmed kit from the debut feel like PlaySkool baby drums by comparison.

Yet, for all of the decisions Firelink made to improve themselves, certain others hold Firelink back more than I expected. On The Inveterate Fire, soft sections like those in “Beckoning Sun” and “The First Sin” 2 brought so much to the table that no matter how long the songs were, every second felt not only justified, but essential, to the full appreciation of the material. Here, similarly lengthy tracks “Cloak of Marrow” and “Where Demons Bore” contain expansive swaths of instrumentation which somehow lack that ensnaring spell which captured my attention so fully in the past. It’s not like the band lost their touch in this respect, as “End of Piety” features gorgeous ebb and flow between bouts of excitement and periods of rest, and is all the stronger for it. Rather, I believe the hooks which made Firelink‘s debut so immediate seem less sharp this time around, especially in those crucial intimate junctures that need to be rock-solid to keep me on the edge of my seat.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that Firelink grew on me considerably as I spent more time with it. It’s possible that my criticisms of the record will not survive the test of time. The real concern is that it never reaches the lofty heights of The Inveterate Fire. Far be it from me to base my rating on whether one album measures up to its predecessor, but the relationship I forged with each differ. In other words, Firelink is an important, sure-footed step forward for the band, even if it’s still a hair short of the explosive finishing move I desired.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: PCM
Label: Self-Release
Websites: facebook.com/firelinkofficial | firelink.bandcamp.com
Releases Worldwide: June 16th, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Which is, admittedly, the only installment I’ve spent considerable time playing.
  2. You happy now, Alex 1.0?
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