Neverus – Burdens of the Earth Review

To any germinating young metal bands reading this, please heed my advice: Don’t attempt what Neverus has done here with your first record. Without so much as a public demo under their belt, this young Dutch act simultaneously revealed themselves and began releasing singles in 2022, culminating in this debut LP, Burdens of the Earth. But it’s not just that Neverus started releasing music with no pent-up hype or a label to back them; it’s that they did so while swinging for the damn fences, sprinting before anyone knew they could even crawl. Neverus has brazenly taken the kitchen sink approach to extreme metal songcraft, incorporating elements from several subgenres before proving that they knew how to properly handle any of those styles in isolation. It would have been disastrous – if, that is, their songwriting and identity weren’t on a level of a band several albums deep into their career.

Neverus’ far-reaching ideas work well because of the band’s strong melodic death metal foundation, with strong notes of Wintersun arising from a naked appreciation for Finnish melodeath. It’s initially difficult to detect this core aesthetic, however, as Burdens of the Earth wastes no time engaging with its most ambitious ideas. The opening salvo of “Banish and Burn” imbeds heavy clean vocal usage into a bouncy, folk-adjacent romp, with lead guitars effortlessly invoking Bal-Sagoth’s sense of unbridled adventure. In fact, many of this record’s more symphonic moments remind me heavily of Bal-Sagoth1, so much so that my main point of comparison for Neverus is the (presumably) short-lived Wizardthrone. Speaking of acts featuring members of Æther Realm, Neverus innately possesses a similar level of emotional authenticity as that band, elevating the finales of tracks like “Mournful March” and “Temptation” in impactful, grandiose fashion. It all feels comfortably organic and unforced, a crystal clear culmination of raw talent from people who live and breathe this kind of music.

The sheer talent displayed on Burdens of the Earth extends to the songwriting, which is every bit as flexible as the band’s style. Neverus does not write long songs unless absolutely necessary, which means their longest compositions (“One for Blood,” “Temptation”) feel like condensed odysseys of smartly constructed progressive metal. On the flipside, several songs (“Calderian,” “Send My Spirit High,” “Towards the Surface”) clock in at four minutes or less while feeling no less ambitious than their lengthier counterparts. “Send My Spirit High” in particular accomplishes an astonishing amount in only three and a half minutes, its sinister verse recalling the overwrought symphonic black metal of the mid-00’s, before effortlessly pivoting to an uplifting, Equilibrium-esque chorus. If I have one gripe about the songwriting, it’s that Neverus’s desire to diversify their songs sometimes impedes opportunities to flat-out shred; the instances of sheer speed of “Lazarus” and “One for Blood” are downright exhilarating, and I’d love for that sense of breakneck velocity to more greatly define a follow-up to this record.

Production-wise, aside from an absence of bass guitar definition, there is virtually nothing to complain about here. The tones are close to the best that can be asked for in the genre, and while not dynamic, the mix feels nearly perfectly balanced. Performances are great across the board as well, with Joris Sevat’s eclectic drumming proving an excellent match for the adventurous nature of the music, while Jack Streat’s leads and solos appropriately invoke melody and grandeur over flashy pyrotechnics. Streat also handles the vocals2, and while his harsh performances produce deliciously campy snarls, his cleans can be a bit hit or miss. I blame this on the compositions more than his vocal skills, as some tracks (“Banish and Burn”) suit his cleans better than others (“Towards the Surface,”), giving the impression that they should have been used more sparingly across the record for specific instances.

All that bars Burdens of the Earth from being unquestionably Record o’ the Month material is a series of minor missteps, rather than any major flaws. Those flaws cannot quell its utterly addictive presence, one which is reasonably digestible at forty-five minutes. Neverus has here produced the most compelling debut record I’ve heard this year, an experience made all the more awe-inspiring with the knowledge that this is an unsigned release. The talent, songwriting, and consistent sense of identity are simply on a level never expected from any band on their first outing. With some refinement, Neverus is absolutely destined for the upper echelons of melodic death metal.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 73 | Format Reviewed: PCM
Label: Self-Released
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: March 3rd, 2023

Show 3 footnotes

  1. I should probably point out that when I reached out to Neverus to request a review copy of this record, I brought up the Bal-Sagoth comparison, to which the band immediately replied that they had never heard of them.
  2. And the bass guitar. And the orchestrations. And the mixing. And the songwriting. And the lyrics.
  3. DR 12 for the interludes, DR 5 for the main tracks.
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