Sammas’ Equinox – Tulikehrät Review

You ever get those strong cravings for something that you can’t identify? Something that you know exists, but you just can’t think of its name or what it looks, feels, smells, sounds, or tastes like? I haven’t been able to pin the tail on this particular donkey when it comes to my listening preferences lately, so instead of trying to aim while wearing a blindfold, I just shot in the dark all william nilliam and if I hit something then that’s what I got.  If you know the experience of which I speak, then you know exactly what led me to Sammas’ Equinox this day. Tulikehrät is the debut full-length from the Finnster black metal trio. Will it scratch the unrelenting itch?

The style approached by Sammas’ Equinox harkens back to the days of olde, when face-painted specters frolicked in the church cemeteries amongst the flames. Not quite as raw as early Darkthrone and not quite as melodic as EmperorSammas’ Equinox occupies the middle ground, offering all the tremolos one could ask for and loading up on the synths for atmospheric grandeur. Tones sound rough-hewn and serrated, with plenty of noisy incidentals and throaty croaks to further accentuate the low-fi environment so deeply ingrained in this genre. Muffled drums and icy leads come with the territory as well, but the goal is not to frighten, rather to entrance.

Assuming that Tulikehrät intends to hypnotize, the execution of Sammas’ Equinox’s chosen style works beautifully. Closer “High Seat of the Pain Mountain” exemplifies the success of simple chords coupled with excellent compositional choices regarding vaguely folky synths and distorted low end rumbles. Everything in this track flows smoothly from transition to transition, and excluding any surprises or unpredictable detours, actually helps the song manifest its destiny to close out these short thirty minutes in fine fashion. Moreover, “High Seat of the Pain Mountain” ties back to the first bit of opener “Fire” so repeat listens come naturally. It helps that “Fire” is solid as well, with enjoyable, if uninspired riffs and a youthful spirit that extends through to the short second track “The Staunching.”

Unfortunately, these small sparkles of quality fail to save Tulikehrät from mediocrity. “Northern Gate of the Sun,” for example, is lukewarm at its hottest, and at over seven minutes long, it tries my patience. Certain passages in the song hint at a more interesting diversion over the course of its runtime, but at each junction Sammas’ Equinox fail to capitalize on those opportunities, instead relegating themselves to the same tired formula. “Carved in Stone” and “Mustat Vedet” compound the issue, remaining utterly forgettable after nearly two weeks of consistent replay. As I write this, I strain to recall anything from those two tracks, except to say that they are competently played and composed. Furthermore, I dislike the vocals. Granted, they are perfect for this style and most fans of classic black metal will find nothing to contest when it comes to the croaking rasps, but I find them reedy and thin. Thankfully, regardless of my feelings towards the music itself, Tulikehrät boasts a wonderful production with warm tones and just enough rawness to give it cred.

It seems that Sammas’ Equinox have some work to do if they wish to gain more traction in the overcrowded black metal realm. As far as production and atmosphere is concerned, the band hit the nail on the head. Even their flair for smooth transitions deserve praise. However, without the ample songwriting chops of bands like PaaraMayhem, or EmperorSammas’ Equinox stand no chance of kicking butt or taking names. To compete with the insane number of quality bands out there, new acts must create something not only memorable on its own, but something that listeners crave to replay and recall. As for me, the craving for that special something which I can’t describe grows ever stronger, but at least I can say it’s not Tulikehrät.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Signal Rex
Releases Worldwide: September 28th, 2020

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