Since the band reformed back in 2014, Germany’s STIRIAH have set to work establishing themselves within the country’s underground scene with a small but impressive back catalogue. In a nation already renowned for its excellent pedigree when it comes to black metal acts, this band has managed to carve out a niche of their own that mixes the genre’s more atmospheric side with a leaner, more savage style of songwriting that at points straddles the line between melodicism and cacophony quite well, giving the quartet a diverse and multi-faceted sound. Their latest full length, …Of Light, sees the band finally perfect the wide-reaching scope of their sound on record, not only being their personal best, but also perhaps one of the more impressive black metal records of the year so far.
The Emergence Of Being makes for a suitably ominous start to the album, blending precise drums, bleak guitar and keyboard work, and arid, shrieking vocals, which all provide an incredibly sharp but melancholic take on black metal that has a polished production that doesn’t strip away any of the character inherent in the music. It’s an impressively powerful, and at points fierce, way to kick things off, and grabs the listener’s attention straight away. Drifting In The Sea Of Flames proves to be a far more visceral and frenetic affair, with more aggressive and speed-driven guitar lines, a thicker bass sound and decidedly more energised drums adding a darker, but nonetheless melodic, aspect to the music. Meanwhile, the acidic snarl of the vocals carves through the mix to inject an extra acerbic quality that only makes things sound more sinister.
Companion Of Light carries forward some of the dissonance that was prevalent in the preceding track’s sound, but does an excellent job of mixing into this tighter, catchier leads, giving this a leaner and extremely focused feel, with a few majestic, soaring moments peppered throughout that results in a more immersive song that utilises the band’s more ethereal elements well. These more expansive, dramatic components that have gradually begun to creep into the album’s sound reach new heights with Threatening Shadows, a song that embraces a classic black metal riffing style, but does so in a way that accentuates their more cavernous side, which the crisp production complements perfectly. It still possesses the brooding, ferocious parts of the band’s sound, but this is, first and foremost, a captivating slab of black metal with plenty of musical twists and turns along the way that keep things interesting.
An eerie piano motif closes the track, and it bleeds seamlessly into Lonely The Moon Is Enthroned, a brilliant exercise in black metal’s gloomier and more grandiose ingredients, with hypnotic guitar work, intricately interwoven drums and bass, and vocals that range from caustic bellows to bombastic chants. It provides a magnificently cinematic sound that draws the listener right in, serving as one of the album’s strongest numbers. My Burden The Last Crown brings the album to a conclusion with a slight change of pace that leaves a solid impact. The band’s standard melodic flourishes and incredibly slick musicality is coupled with some weighty, groove-laden rhythms that make for an invigorating piece of music with a solidly monolithic undercurrent that packs a significant punch, closing the album on a fantastic offering that leaves the listener wanting to hear more.
More often than not, an incredibly polished and modern approach to production can render even the most imaginative and musically impressive black metal somewhat muted and sterile, but this is certainly not the case here. If anything, the squeaky clean mix helps to draw attention to the tightness of the musicianship, allowing the more intricate and subtle elements at play within the songwriting to come to the fore, whilst adding a powerful, cinematic quality to a lot of the music on offer here. The talent and technical prowess on all fronts cannot be ignored either, with the band having a clear and palpable chemistry as songwriters that helps to make each of these six tracks brilliantly layered and eclectic. …Of Light takes the grander aspects of Into The Depths and sharper, vicious side of Aurora and combines the two, resulting in an album that captures the band at their absolute best.
…Of Light is out now via self-release.
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