Lately, it’s felt like Christmas with some of the promos I’ve been fortunate enough to review this year. Though it’s not quite Christmas yet, I’d say it’s felt a little like the eponymous “Christmas in July.” Something that isn’t real but sure makes one happy in the sweltering desert heat. I still remember conceiving a real-life tradition to help the fam through my strict 88 degree-Fahrenheit-household temperature during the brutal summers. The 25th of July1 was a day of air conditioning, Danish Christmas cookies, and Christmas Vacation. Those days may be gone forever, as the family no longer exists as it once did, but a new tradition exists for old Grier. One that sees a year-end release that has, for two straight years, made my heart race in anticipation. A year later, almost to-the-date, comes another Second to Sun release. Lo and behold, the greatest annual tradition of them all. My present to you: Legacy.
Since the first time I heard Russia’s Second to Sun, I was smitten. Hell, I made last year’s The Walk my #1 pick for 2018. But, really, everything under the Sun could top year-end lists. Though you won’t find the band’s djenty second release, Based on a True Story, you’ll find everything else. And not a single song will disappoint. Every time I sit down and listen to StS‘s discography, I find a new favorite. Each record has second-wave black metal assaults, thick layers of keys and atmospheres, and melodics that alternate between sad and sinister. One can argue which is the best. You can even argue vocal versus instrumental versions of each album. And Legacy will, no doubt, be another to argue over.
As opener “Devil” comes to life, one may notice how much heavier Legacy is to The Walk. Within seconds, the simple, stop-start chug of “Devil” turns your face into a punching bag. First, tenderizing your skin with second-wave riffage from the frozen north. And, second, walking away, leaving you broken and bleeding out. The melodic black/death build after the midpoint seals your fate for good. “Confessional of the Black Penitent” and “No Need to Be Afraid Now” follow suit. The former does it in much the same way as its predecessor; using Marduk-like structures to spell doom for the listener. And, like the opener, it morphs into a show of darkness and depression. The back-half of the song reinvents the front half’s aggressive nature, molding itself around the powerful melodic builds of pain and suffering. “No Need to Be Afraid Now,” on the other hand, is a fierce hellhound on an apocalyptic rampage. Sporting ferocious black-death riffage akin to Vader, this track unleashes vocal and instrumental attacks like no other song on the album.
But, as I said when I reviewed The Walk, it’s the passionate atmospheres and melodic qualities of Second to Sun that make the band so special. And when they can combine these qualities with their heavier side, that’s even better. “Pages of a Manuscript” and “Once upon a Time in Russia” do just that. Both are epic pieces that tackle the essential sound of StS in unique ways. The former does this with a mind-fucking, ten-minute runtime that takes slow, haunting, Alcestian moments and converts these navel-gazing structures into key-driven, melodic black/death passages. This transition is so dramatic, it almost feels like a different song. “Once upon a Time in Russia,” though, is my favorite. Combining the chugs of “Devil” with the blackness of “Confessional of the Black Penitent,” it goes one side further and introduces Dimmu Borgir key-work and Hypocrisy vox and atmospheres to the mix. Making this track the true epic of the album.
Yet, epic pieces are only as strong as the ones that follow. Rounding out the rest of the record is the slow drive and Hypocrisy-esque attitude of “Monster” and the moody, beautiful, Wintersunshine that is “Raida.” The former succeeds “Pages for a Manuscript” and the latter follows “Once upon a Time in Russia” to close out Legacy. Each time I hear a new StS release, I figure there’s not much more left the band hasn’t already done. Yet, like The Walk before it, Legacy proves me wrong once again. Coming at you with some of the hardest-hitting riffs2 the band has conjured up, Legacy is another fantastic album to join StS‘s catalog. And, like the others, the instrumental version is equally as powerful and a must-have for anyone interested in buying the album.3