I got a kick out of this. To hear Chloe Bray wail away on The Monolith like some weird mixture of Amalie Bruun and an early version of Sharon den Adel just made my day. Only, the RMR deck crew somehow feared that she would also do the dirty and scream away like Myrkur in her early days.
But never fear, this is indeed Sojourner. So, no mad screaming on this record to ruin the mighty atmospheric impression in one go. If anything you get Azathoth’s mad piping, which perfectly fits their lay of the land. In other words, Premonitions sticks to the band’s fantastical themes and impossibly large soundscapes.
RMR covered this band already for Empires of Ash and The Shadowed Road. You can clearly see a path of increased maturity over the last few years. And – of course – big labels also took notice of that. Which means that things are likely to take on a more commercial approach.
Now, this commerce thing is not as bad as I expected on Premonitions. Yet, in tracks like The Deluge, there’s this taste of the awful mainstream all over the place. Give the wannabe metalheads some palatable material that they can relate to. So that they can report, with a totally delicious shudder, that they just latched on to Black Metal.
Luckily, Sojourner did not stray far from their beaten path, though. You still get that impression of the computer game type and often epic Atmospheric Black Metal. Summoning with a sense of reality if you will. Filled with brooding flutes that will forever make our day. Even if Emilio Crespo‘s gnarly rasps now are more Caladan Brood than anything else. And to top it all, this band still mostly uses real instruments, as they very well should. Along the lines of what their brethren of Firelink do.
Tracks like Eulogy for the Lost or The Apocalyptic Theater really latch on to Sojourner‘s former works. Whereas we appreciated that new-found bite on The Atonement and its brethren. A subtle upgrade in an overall juicy crunch, yet still embedded in this absolutely cool deluge of otherwordly flutes.
And you know what? I truly fancy the more prominent position Bray‘s vocals took on Premonitions. What a great idea to give her a bit more sea room to oppose them ever-rasping growls a tad better.
But then, why on earth they brickwalled her back into the mix after that overly high-pitched stint in Talas, I cannot fathom. First, she’s there – front and center – and boom, the girl’s disappeared. Gone, swallowed by the dark forests of Morrowind.
Also, Premonitions often sports that annoying tendency to gripe with an overly compressed and over-saturated mix that really makes you wonder why they employ a bassist at all. Okay, we can all argue all day that the unheard bass contributes to the richness of the tune. Renders it unctuous, or something of that sort. Kinda like spice in that sauce you’re making for your spaghetti.
But let’s face it, I like to hear stuff, that’s why I am listening to the blurb in the first place. If not, this would be like eating jambalaya with way too many peppers in it. You’ll only feel the bite of the Habanero, but nothing else. No glory in there, I can tell ya.
And as the tracklist progresses, Premonitions shows more and more of those impurities. Down to the last track – The Event Horizon – that kinda noodles about the soundscape in a bizarre mix of electro-powered pseudo Death Metal with a blackened flavoring mixed into the fray.
You see, on The Shadowed Road this band had a strong sense of purpose. A drive down epic Atmospheric Black Metal road. The one with a folksy twist, Summoning without the plastic drum machine and real instruments. Their mission was clear, powerful, and totally alluring.
Now on Premonitions, the compass somehow lost its vigor. There’s this lack of direction. Things kinda oscillate between those commercial urges and the far mountains of fantasy land where the goblins dwell.
You’ll still find plenty of the old spirit on this record, though. Vast soundscapes filled with pipes, rumbling riffs, ethereal chants, and grouchy growls. A somber and often doom-laden piece of Atmospheric Black Metal and Post Black Metal. All of that with that added spice of a more pronounced presence of Chloe Bray that I truly loved. This means that those commercialized pieces – the mainstream drivers – just sit annoyingly athwart of an otherwise pretty outstanding performance.
And that is a pity.