Album Review: Sojourner – Empires of Ash (Avantgarde Music)

Empires of Ash, the debut album from folk influenced atmospheric black metal band, Sojourner was released in 2016 via Avantgarde Music. A cassette version is due to be released on March 31st 2017 via Fólkvangr Records.

empires of ash cover

Simply put, Empires of Ash is one of the finest records to combine folk & black metal. It’s hauntingly beautiful but filled with bundles of blackened riffs, throbbing bass hooks, catchy drum beats & growling vocals. It’s grandiose sound is the sort of music that makes you want to drop to your knees & thank whatever god you want that it exists.

What makes Empires of Ash so special though is its folk sounds. Perfectly executed to enhance the 7-track journey that is laid out for the listener here. The subtle sounds of the tide execute a haunting intro to Bound by Blood before a killer riff brings in the black metal noise. Filled with great guitar melodies & great use of a flute, it’s a fantastic opener.

One of the strongest points of the entire album is found in the piano melodies. Heritage of the Natural Realm utilises the instrument wonderfully around the crushing black riffs & hooks. That it also throws in some soft female vocals & an absolutely hammering beat at the end really shows off the variety & imagination Sojourner has.

You keep waiting for a dip in quality but it never comes. Aeons of Valor is amazing, catchy as hell with stunning guitar work & still with an unmistakable black metal sound thanks to the vocals. This crushing tune is followed by the hauntingly beautiful, The Pale Host. Soft female only vocals, it has serious impact especially when it picks up slightly with some acoustic strumming.

As great as Empires of Ash has been up to this point, nothing will have prepared you for what comes next. Homeward is a song so good that it almost beggar’s belief that a group of musicians could have written something like this. Something so transfixing, something so moving, something so emotionally deep. If there is one song you choose to listen too off this album let it be this. It moving the exact same flute melody but to an electric guitar is just a ‘mouth wide open’ moment.

You couldn’t blame Sojourner for taking it easy on the final two tracks after that but they don’t let up for even a second. Trails of the Earth & Empires of Ash finish the album off with the same high quality found throughout. The former has a real ‘zip’ about it, a pacier number that really draws power from the black metal side of the music. The drumming is at its most powerful here.

While the latter is an epic 12-minute finale. Plenty of piano & flute again but with a harder guitar sound. It’s an ending you just don’t want to come & the 58-minute runtime feels far too short for music this good.

Buy this album, hear this album.

Sojourner – Empires of Ash Full Track Listing:

1. Bound by Blood
2. Heritage of the Natural Realm
3. Aeons of Valor
4. The Pale Host
5. Homeward
6. Trails of the Earth
7. Empires of Ash

You can pick up Empires of Ash over on Bandcamp & learn more about the band via Facebook

Sojourner - Empires of Ash (Avantgarde Music)
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