Surma – The Light Within (2020) – Review

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RMR just got hijacked by yet another unknown record. All leaves cancelled, and no refreshments until the review is live on the website.

You see, there is this guy from TÝR who – apparently – latched on to this young female Czech vocalist back in 20181). Yet another one with classical training, serious metal urges, and loads of promise.

So, they met and produced this band between themselves. Somewhat of a mix of Island Metal from the North, Dutch symphonics, and slightly Slavik accents.

Surma‘s The Light Within was indeed not really on the menu for this week nor any other week for that matter. But what can I do? There is a somewhat morbid fascination with this band. Because for the life of us we weren’t sure how this corny Viking Metal dude would merge with softer metal undertones. After all, the band from the Faroes likes to roar those metal songs out into the open in their own tongue. All together. All male Viking Metal fun, axes included2).

The Light Within navigates in that overpopulated backspace, somewhere in between the fantastical grandeur of Power Metal3) and the often overly epic reaches of Symphonic Metal. And all that garnished with some progressive flavors here and there.

Those are feats that many bands failed at already after Within Temptation really started to pump up the volume in 1997. And even the latter lately strayed from the path of light to seriously surf the vile waves of the mainstream. Which is a pity, given the awesome talent still prevalent in this band.

Yet, Surma‘s sound has a refreshing look and feel to it. As if this island-bound soaring Nordic metal and pure Dutch symphonic influences will keep this annoying epic trash at bay that recently became a fashion of sorts.

And to up the ante some more, The Light Within is a focused record. All tracks are tailored to the 3-4 minute mark. And for once that is a good thing. Because it means that things move along at a pretty brisk pace. And whilst other records in the genre seem to search for the epical and bombastic with an intent to make you drown in it, these folks just move in for the kill. Real instruments, real chanting, and none of the overly synthesized garbage that we had to put up with lately.

Joensen‘s background already prepared us for the kind of thing, of course4). But I have never quite seen this applied to a Symphonic Metal record. And I daresay, his speedy style with the rare yet pretty juicy solos here and there, really work well.

Of course, nothing on this disk would work without Viktorie Surmøvá. She boasts a refreshing energy and a style that will get her far. In fact, she sings at you and not for you. There’s no hesitation or a shred of uncertainty in that girl. And all that goodness comes with a well-modulated reach that often reminded me of Epica’s Simone Simons in her many incarnations. And she has a command of the stage that I would like to see from other interpreters in the symphonic and power genres.

Of course, my evil twin whispered that we now have all those ingredients for a ready-made dime-a-dozen Symphonic Metal band. But nothing could be farther away from reality. True, the temptation to instigate a beauty and the beast fest is right in front of our ears. But The Light Within contains none of that.

If anything, Joensen and Surmøvá boast a symbiotic relationship, a chemistry that few of these male/female teams have mustered so far. And it shows in this straightforward style that I found so refreshing. The outcome is a gentle yet relentless power behind their tune. One that even lets the poppier parts of the record sound acceptable, more or less. Perhaps they could give the folks from Amaranthe a hint5)?

Not sure where to look for that proof of the pudding? Well, go no further than Like the River Flows. A terrific track with a stellar solo. Only the growls kinda made me cringe. Just sayin’. Or try Until It Rains Again, a piece that drives the power of metal ballads home again. Or is it one really? Don’t let the track convince you otherwise6).

In the end, The Light Within is a beautiful record. A testament that great Symphonic Metal pieces are still possible. And it can be done without feeding on the darkest urges the genre provides. To the contrary, Surma take the term freshness to the next level.

The band won this crew over with their straight-in-your-face, no nonsense approach that takes no prisoners. Real music made by real musicians, not that highly compressed chaff that often wafts in from the wide reaches of the metal multiverse.

The Light Within indeed hijacked the RMR review pipeline. It was that moment when the RMR deck crew went from a lazy, casual listen straight to red alert in about 30 seconds. And that is exactly how things should pan out on a music blog. Intense it was, true, but so good.

Ed’s note: And the record successfully made it onto the 2020 Top 10 Records. Congrats!

Record Rating: 8/10 | LabelMetal Blade Records | Web: Official Band Site
Release Date: 6 November 2020


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