Vitskär Süden – The Faceless King Review

Well, this is certainly a unique release in many ways, and thanks to the bureaucracy of our PDS1 this one slipped by everyone and right down to me. Meet Vitskär Süden, a progressive/psychedelic/overall trippy band that hails not from some esoteric land as the umlauts in their name might suggest, but rather from Los Angeles, California. These guys have been playing together in some form or other for around twenty years now, but as Vitskär Süden this is their second release. The Faceless King follows up 2020’s well-regarded eponymous debut. What’s different this time around? A few things, not the least of which is the fact that, with certain purchases, this concept album also comes with a fully-fledged Dungeons & Dragons module. How cool is that? Pretty cool if you like D&D, pretty nerdy if you don’t. But most of us are nerds, so let’s dig into both the album and the module, shall we?

The album opens as one might expect judging from the album cover: hazy and bizarre. Sounds float in an out of the speakers, almost more as textures really. Soulful, plaintive vocals courtesy bassist Martin Garner add to the spell. The Faceless King continues the story started in Vitskär Süden’s debut, and to be honest I’m not up on it, although it seems to involve death, rebirth, the quest for power, and of course a mysterious hero. While “The Way” might be an odd opening to most albums due to its languid pacing and ethereal vibe, it really sets the tone for the album, letting us know we are in for a spellbinding and kaleidoscopic journey: a journey that is further explored in the D&D module that accompanies the album.

There is certainly a cinematic feel to The Faceless King. Neither hooks nor riffs catch our attention in these songs. It’s all about immersing the listener in the setting of the album, in the land of this faceless king. “Archdiocese of Worms” carries on in similar fashion to the opener, while “Voices from Beyond the Wall” is a far more delicate number, yet no less trippy. An album highlight is “Shepherds on the Roadside,” with an almost King Buffalo-like groove slowed down, delay and reverb-drenched guitars panned across the speakers, and sporadic bass. Garner again brings it together with his almost prophetic vocal style and the song ends in epic fashion. “The Broken Crown” is an epic crawling doom song that caps off the album, bringing to bear all the elements used previously.

And the module that comes with The Faceless King? It’s called Ascension of the Faceless King, and it’s pretty damn good. As someone who, in a past life, has written and sold a d20 campaign setting, I know the amount of work that can and should go into this, and it is easy to see Vitskär Süden have gone above and beyond. In fact, the band is quick to acknowledge that creating this module took them longer than the album did. For those of you purchasing it and hopefully playing it,2 I won’t spoil the plot. I will say that the settings, encounters, characters, dialog, heck every aspect of the module, is done on a professional level. My only question for the band: If this is Dungeon Module VS2, where is VS1?

A thoroughly enveloping platter of spacey psychedelic prog and an equally immersive D&D module make for a compelling package. The Faceless King would be great accompanying music to play the module with, and I’m sure Vitskär Süden intended it to be that way (although at a mere 37 minutes you’d have to play this a dozen times over). The languid pacing may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the music is engrossing and with its brief runtime won’t bore anyone. There are plenty of layers of hazy instruments to dig into a fun concept to follow, and as a unit the band hits all the right notes for this style. The Faceless King is good enough that it prompted me to go buy the band’s (also strong) debut after a few listens. Give it a shot and see what you think.

Rating: 3.5/5.0 for the album, 4.0 for the module
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: PCM
Label: Ripple Music
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: November 4th, 2022

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Promo Distribution System.
  2. If you buy the vinyl it comes with a hard copy of the module. I’m looking forward to my order arriving.
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