Stirring at the album cover that graces the front of Sojourner’s new debut album ‘Empires of Ash’ one cannot help but think of times long ago, a time when great castles pierced the sky, epic battles commenced across great fields and vast woodlands, green in nature only turned red with death and all this dwarfed by mountainous valleys as far as one can see. Exciting sounding, yes? Well I am pleased to say the music is a perfect theme and a true reflection of the beautiful cover art the band have chosen to use.
Coming to life only in 2015 Sojourner wasted no time in dropping a teaser track, namely ‘Heritage of the Natural Realm’ which appeared last May, not long after the bands creation. This single sparked a lot of interest in the underground and garnered the attention of the wonderful Avantgarde Music, a label that hosts an army of excellent bands and showing no signs of slowing down.
The band themselves hail from New Zealand and Sweden, though two of the members are based in Scotland at present, such wonderful back drops for a band to write this style of music to. The album begins with a gentle wind blowing carrying some beautiful tin whistle melodies across the glades only to be shattered by the incoming blackened attack. A powerful delivery commences as ‘Bound by Blood’ rumbles forth, a fast and hard hitting opener which features a guitar and tin whistle melody, infectious and mournful in nature, something the band use to great effect throughout the album. ‘Aeons of Valor’ and ‘Homeward’ are my two personal favourite tracks and if you enjoy the likes of Summoning, Caladan Brood, Gallowbraid etc you are in for a treat. Epic and triumphant in nature but not letting go to that feeling of sadness that is present throughout the album and used to great effect.
Chloe Bray is a real asset to the band and adds a certain amount of emotion with her soothing delivery. Take for example ‘The Pale Host’ which is perfectly placed to give the album a steady flow. Her vocals are really ethereal and beautiful sounding reminding one again of those times of yore, think of those slow moving scenes in a movie like Braveheart and you will get the picture. Not to mention her tin whistle playing which is equally as beautiful, weaving in and out of the tracks, adding a fresh take on this mournful melodies I mentioned, similar as to what Andy Marshall does in Saor. If that was not enough she also plays the guitars and accounts for approximately half the music on the album! Now that is impressive, her and Mike are quite a talented duo.
Emilio’s rasped vocals blend perfectly, his snarl quite decipherable for those that like to follow the lyrics. The two Mikes provide a very solid rhythm section with Mike Lamb playing drums and guitars at impressive level, normally more at home in the doom genre with this being his first dabble in the epic realms. Production is perfect allowing all instruments to shine with keyboards present to boost the atmosphere, coming and going when required.
These guys have created a fantastic debut, one which really took me by surprise and contains many of the elements I adore in the genre while at the same time keeping their music fresh and exciting. While today these great castles lye old, decrepit and ruined, bands such as these can really make them breathe again crafting visions of an era long dead. I can safely say Sojourner are the latest armor clad warrior to take a seat at the round table and have released an exceptional album that will serve them very well indeed.
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