Soulburn – Noa’s D’ark Review

Another week, another case of GardensTale filling in for Grymm on a well-regarded band he didn’t care for. Last time we visited Soulburn, they were lambasted for bloated songwriting and unmemorable riffs, much to the chagrin of the commentariat. Such errors are not what you’d expect from a band whose members have such pedigree. Originally formed by two members of Asphyx when their band went on hiatus, Soulburn resurfaced under their original moniker in 2014, after a hiatus of their own and a stint carrying the name To The Gallows during which Rogga Johanssen briefly joined the line-up. Nowadays, the cast still includes founding member Eric Daniels, as well as Legion of the Damned guitarist Twan van Geel and Graceless members Remco Kreft and Marc Verhaar. On paper, a team like this should be able to make a pretty killer record. But did they, this time around?1

Hell yes they did! Noa’s D’ark puts death, black and doom metal in a blender, pulses three times and emerges with a smoothie that tastes like malicious aggression. Some of the band’s convoluted history shines through; when the pace picks up, a whiff of the death-thrash from Van Geel’s main outfit leaks out, and the muscular riffing of Asphyx left its bootprint on the band’s face. But the black metal that runs in Soulburn’s veins leaves a more malevolent aftertaste.2 Though I can’t say I much care for the composition of the cover, its ancient cyclopean architecture fits the massive and ominous music to a T.

I didn’t get around to comparing Noa’s D’ark to Earthless Pagan Spirit, but either I must disagree with Grymm’s criticism of bloat or the band has properly sharpened their editing knives this time around, because such an issue is nowhere to be seen. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, as the average song length has gone down by almost a full minute and rarely do I ever feel a track or riff overstays its welcome. There’s a bit of sag in the middle (“Triumphant One” and “Anointed – Blessed – and Born for Burning”), though the latter has some engaging vocal histrionics, and the plodding repetition of the choruses on “The Godless I” is a bit of a slog, granted. And sure, the songwriting is not aiming for unexpected twists or turns. This is not the modern type of dissonant extreme metal that makes your head spin; this is black-death of the old school that makes your head bang until your neck snaps. As such, it’s a bit predictable, just never to the extent where it becomes a chore, and the doom metal influences are used well to create a more dynamic flow with many changes in pacing and atmosphere.

The execution leaves for no want. Van Geel, who’s also done vocals for Flesh Made Sin and Bunkur, is in top form, with an engagingly slobbering snarl that morphs easily into distorted half-cleans or ragged shouting styles. The Kreft-Daniels duo on guitars show themselves a versatile couple, just as capable when evoking dark moods as they are bludgeoning us with thrashy riff-fests, both featuring prominently on the excellent book-ends. New addition Verhaar is a workhorse on the drums, supplying plenty of energy. The most notable feature, however, is Van Geel’s bass, thanks to an apparently conscious effort on the production team. I’m always happy just to have an audible bass; in this case, however, the fat strings have equal footing with the guitars, with a deeply satisfying rumbling twang that lends additional depth to the entire record, making a solid and competent record that much more enjoyable.

Overall, Noa’s D’ark is pretty much a slam dunk as far as I’m concerned. The songwriting is largely consistent and engaging, despite a bit of sag in the middle, and the performances are skillful and energetic. Soulburn have made an old school slammer that’ll get your head banging against the walls of the damned. Sifting through Grymm’s heap of refuse has been a rewarding experience so far. After I increased Auðn’s score by a full point a few weeks ago, this time we go double or nothing. Clearly, if the current trend holds, next month I must pick a follow-up for a 2.0 to get my new album of the year.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Century Media Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: November 13th, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Or again, depending on whom you ask.
  2. The band was originally conceived to follow in Bathory’s footsteps.
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