[Edited and newly published version]
Their style mixes the Scandinavian kind of Death Metal with not very subtle symphonic elements. And this gets us a sound that is pretty unique. Even if further influences like Omnium Gatherum, Amon Amarth and a tad of Wolfheart cannot be denied.
The Swedish Melodic and Symphonic Death Metal band Meadows End came into being way back by the end of the last century and cruised the metal underground for long years. By 2009 (yeah, that late..) the band decided to blow their ballast tanks and rise to the surface of this mighty metal ocean. The result? Ode to Quietus in 2010, followed by The Sufferwell in 2014. These two records gave Meadows End some acclaim amongst critics. But this newly-found fame did not really propel them out into the light as these records would indeed deserve.
Their third full length album Sojourn initially launched in 2016 as a concept record of sorts. A second re-issue released through Black Lion Records in 2018.
Sojourn collects a gaggle of 12 re-recorded tracks Meadows End wrote between 1999 and 2006, seen unfit for the knacker’s yard just yet and deemed worthy of preservation. Add Everlasting to that list, if you count the bonus track. Which of course depends on the version in your collection. More to that track further down.
I appreciate this crafty way of publishing one song every month for a year to a dedicated YouTube channel, kicking up some dust with the audience. A practice not en vogue too much back then, but coming into fashion more and more these days (Tragul is a good example).
Meadows End‘s liberal use of keyboards makes them stand out from the crowd of low-fi drum beat, clash and stamp, blood and bones Death Metal gigs. Now that might not please some of our more hard-core purists. The ones for whom synthesizers and keyboards are for girls – or worse. But here it fits with the overall, kind of Amorphis-esque flavor of them keyboards. Complete with a more mid-tempo delivery most of the time that always gets you this freshness that other bands lack. And it also sets them apart from the full tilt, 200-mph-aggressive stance that bands like Arch Enemy like to display.
And the band is not afraid to step outside of the realm some. For instance, throwing in some special violin solos into this metal struggle for soundbytes really adds a special touch to the album. Where to find this violin thing? Heathen’s Embrace has got it for ye. My favorite track.
Now, the record sports a few issues. Compression is pretty damn rampant and prevents all the numerous, layered elements to really come out an shine. The often ubiquitous drum work with ever-present growls stalking you over the soundscape at every corner risk to overwhelm the listener. And a word to the keyboards: Ever present, yet somewhat commonplace, the keys move about on an even keel from track to track. I’d like to see much more drama from the keyboards for the band’s next record. Not showcasing the keys to their fullest extent in a symphonic production is a real pity.
Yet in the second half of the record much better soloing and more solid riffing appears. Clench the Feet of Fools is a good example of that. This track sports some better use of the choir and extended, almost folksy symphonics. And some heavier, juicier tracks like All of Them or Forever Haven appear all of a sudden towards the end of Sojourn. Now, those definitely increase the quality of the record overall.
What are the best tracks on Sojourn? First and foremost there is Heathen’s Embrace, stellar in its delivery. We should not forget Amidst The Villains neither. Nightmare’s Reef formerly called Area of Thieves garners some interest in the melodic turn it takes – with a pretty solid solo to boot. Plus the aforementioned All of Them and Forever Haven.
And you know what? The epic bonus track Everlasting actually puts a fitting end to a highly interesting album. This one really pulls out all the stops and by doing this Meadows End produce one of the best tracks on the album. Hell’s Bells! A long wait to get to the good stuff. Cool riffing, a decent solo, the orchestral use of string instruments, choir elements – all there.
Now, Sojourn is – by definition – a mixed bag, given the fact that they strung that one together from pre-existing material. With this album, however, Meadows End puts a refreshing, stamp on this somewhat dusty Death Metal genre. And this is – apart from some really good players – in danger to get buried in the soggy underground of this dark and smelly universe. But then the exceptions will always confirm the rule. And Sojourn is one of them.