Miasmata – Unlight: Songs of Earth and Atrophy Review

The epic and atmospheric, fantasy-inspired black metal stylings of Sojourner continue to go from strength to strength, with 2018’s very good outing, The Shadowed Road, matched by last year’s Premonitions, which – if not actually better – was, as Eldritch Elitist said in his List, “a far more consistent effort” than its predecessor. But, wherever Sojourner’s travels take them next, they will be going there without New Zealand bassist, Mike Wilson, who has set off into the back metal wilderness for a sojourn of his own, with his new solo project Miasmata. Will this be a temporary stay before he returns to the folds of a band or does he have the chops to make it on his own?

In short, Hell yes he does. Miasmata’s debut, Unlight: Songs of Earth and Atrophy, serves up huge slice of melodic black metal, hopped up on speed metal and even melodeath influences, all delivered at a breakneck pace and with a real heavy metal chug and swagger. There are scant traces of Sojourner to be found here (think the heavy sections of “Deluge” and “Fatal Frame” from Premonitions) and only a few touches of the death doom of his other band, Lysithea. In truth, Miasmata has a lot more in common with the likes of Swedish black metal titans Dissection or Watain, with heavy doses of the harsh melodicism of Windir. Those comparisons do not tell the whole story, however, as Unlight builds in elements of melodic death metal and speed metal (“A Blaze of Starfire”) and Wilson himself has cited Iron Maiden and Blind Guardian’s Andre Olbrich, in particular, as huge influences, both of which are clear to hear on the record.

I don’t know what I was expecting – possibly something more like Sojourner – but Unlight rips into being so suddenly and with so little warning on opener “Caverns of Malachite” that, on my first listen, I wondered whether there was something wrong with my headphones. No, there was not. It is simply that Unlight is a breathless, white knuckle ride, as epic, hugely melodic leads and lightning tremolos rollercoaster above a mix of blasts and, at times, d-beat (particularly on the record’s opener and sections of “A Blaze of Starfire”). As you’d expect from his work with Lysithea, there are also some massive bass lines. Put simply, there are riffs for days on Miasmata’s debut, with the absolutely epic “A Blaze of Starfire,” the searing “Bloodmoon” and incredible, raging closer “Spell of Unlight” (also the album’s longest cut) particular highlights. Wilson’s vocals embody the chaos and apocalyptic vibes that are Unlight’s subject matter, as he roars and rasps his way through tales of dark sorcery and the end of the world.

Bearing in mind that Unlight is both a debut and a solo effort, it feels incredibly polished and super tight. Clocking in at a crisp 40 minutes, Miasmata is incredibly focused, with no fat on its bones, just riffs atop tasty riffs. The songwriting is strong, with each song having its own character and feel, while the whole remains cohesive, held together by the gorgeous melodies and frantic energy that course through it. Mixed by Mike Lamb, Wilson’s colleague from Sojourner / Lysithea, Unlight has a real power to it. The melodicism at the core of Miasmata’s sound shines through, with a gorgeous guitar tone and rich layers to the record. Wilson’s vocals have a really harsh edge to them that works perfectly with the rest of the album, without overpowering any other elements, including the drums. Although these are maybe a bit far back in the mix at times, they still sound solid throughout.

Miasmata has delivered a hugely impressive debut packed with Windir-esque melodic leads and big, heavy metal influences, that make this so much more than just another one-man black metal project. Indeed, those wider influences give tracks like “Bloodmoon” and “Spell of Unlight” truly majestic moments, as Wilson’s leads soar and his vocals rage. His songwriting is already very accomplished and the fact that he resisted the urge to turn this into some hour-plus epic, does him huge credit. Unlight: Songs of Earth and Atrophy is a truly great debut, packed with riffs that kept me coming back again and again, and with it Miasmata has delivered my first 4.0 of 2021.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Naturmacht Productions
Websites: miasmata.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/miasmatanz
Releases Worldwide: March 14th, 2021

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