Smoulder - Times of Obscene Evil and Wild Daring

Smoulder Times of Obscene Evil and Wild Daring cover
Times of Obscene Evil and Wild Daring
Cruz del Sur
Doom or occult metal with female vocals… wow, not something terribly original and something slightly overdone. While the (internet) true metal intelligentsia is foaming in the mouth for each and every band with a boris vallejo or similar fantasy cover, no matter how good it might or might not be, Smoulder’s debut “Times of Obscene Evil and Wild Daring” arrived in my share for reviews and made me wonder, if it was gonna be any good.
Now, I am quite particular about how I want my doom to be, and the female vocals tend to complicate the equation a little bit, since female vocal timbres tend to be higher and usually more brittle, than those of their male counterparts, but Sarah Ann, their vocalist, has a suitably, heroic and quite stentorian voice, with only some involuntary tremor in her vibratos that doesn’t help her but at least doesn’t make her repealing to my ears as a single. She’s not the worst specimen in the genre, just a little monotonous on her delivery and not terribly charismatic, but she tends to get the job done in most cases, so there’s not much point in arguing her station. The duo of guitarists, Collin Wolf and Shon Vincent do a really good job, as they tend not only to come up with interesting riffs but also nice leads that enunciate the music helping out, even their ideas are less than totally stellar.
Opener “Ilian of Garathorm” is a trusty marching mid paced piece of splendorous epic doom, which works well with its slow burring melodies engraving themselves into memory rather easily.
Follow up “The Sword Woman” is hardly much different, although it’s got a more hard rock vein and is not that immediate. Also other than the guitars, the vocal melodies and all else feels suddenly rather plain.
Once the switch into a higher gear for “Bastard Steel” things differentiate themselves. While the song tries to change the mood, the vocals remain pretty much the same as before, thus not helping much in the overall enjoyment, despite a fairly decent and valiant attempt at a chorus.
“Voyage of the Sunchaser” drops the speed to a comfortable level and while it seems undecided on whether to be doomy or a traditional heavy metal number; it has its moments on occasion, mostly through leads and pearls of vocal melodies that seem to work. And one thing that doesn’t do it for me is the amount of ‘verb on the vocals. Too much and it particularly doesn’t help at all with vibratos.
“Shadowy Sisterhood” is an example of that and while it tries to be dramatic, being the fifth song in a row, which hardly breaks away from a self-imposed mold the band has created for themselves doesn’t help a bit.
And things get even a tad more odd for the nine minute long conclusion “Black God’s Kiss”, a song that simply put bored me, with its plodding rhythm and lack of any invention that would excite me.
While the band admittedly pulls the whole style fairly well, even if the vocals are unrefined and harshly mixed (most of the mix is quite ironed out, robbing the performances of their impact), the bigger problem lies in the band’s one trick pony style that manages to become boring even in an album that back in the 80s would be characterized an EP (below 40 minutes).
I can and have seen people hailing it as the best thing in year in the couple of specialized festivals run by one guy who has absolutely no taste and tries to impose his executive decisions and prices on the small number of bands that seem to revolve around the lineup every couple of years. Unless you’re a wool eyed epic dude that gets a stiffy from dissonant vocals, mediocre productions and words such as steel, sword etc., you can safely steer away from this release and ignore the band at least for the time being. Then again if you’re wearing spandex, buy only albums on vinyl and you’re a true epic metal hipster, by all means, go ahead and hail these guys to the dawn of Ragnarok!