SOJOURNER’s debut album Empires of Ash was one of the most well-received, globally-renowned atmospheric black metal albums of 2016.
SOJOURNER are a folk-influenced atmospheric black metal band from Dunedin, New Zealand, with the exception of their vocalist who is based in Malmö, Sweden.
In a genre in which it is often easy to sound uninspired, Empires of Ash resonated strongly with many people. “Beautiful” is the word most repeated by many of their fans around the internet. The single “Heritage of the Natural Realm” released a year earlier captured the hearts of a small but dedicated online community, and since then individual, frequent and fast responses to their fans on Facebook and Youtube helped build their following and reputation on the back of a truly magnificent and epic nine-minute single. Despite having no live presence and little involvement in the metal community in New Zealand SOJOURNER proved that word-of-mouth and music of quality can more than compensate. With many people having very high expectations after the release of the single, the full-length debut did not disappoint.
SOJOURNER’s hour-long long work is dynamic, raw, and as is so often repeated, truly beautiful. Weaving folk influences and classical elements through a level of production that is of high quality yet retains the rawness and feeling so important in the genre, SOJOURNER’s debut moves effortlessly through motions of the gentle and ethereal into grandeur and relentless riffing. Empires of Ash is a journey, “brimming with magic”. Comparisons to Summoning’s Tolkein-worship and Saor are apt but missing some of the depth evident in this record – the influence of a more engaging melodic death metal sensibility, with less distance in its atmosphere. It feels well-crafted and still natural. Nothing feels out of place and everything adds depth, from the tin whistle’s melodies and Chloe’s softer vocals as a contrast to the harshness of Emilio’s.
Although Mike and Chloe are now based in Scotland, and the vocalist Emilio based in Malmö, Sweden, the recording bassist still resides in Dunedin, and much of this record was written and recorded in Dunedin also. Having been involved in previous Dunedin bands such as Lysithea and Cailleach, this record is at its heart a part of New Zealand metal, and on a global level one of the most recognisably strong releases of it’s genre.
SOJOURNER released Empires of Ash through the renowned Avantgarde Music – an Italian record label which formed as a continuation of Obscure Plasma Records. It focuses on black and doom metal artists, and have released works by bands like Behemoth, Taake, Katatonia, Forgotten Tomb, Carpathian Forest and many more recognisable names.
Empires of Ash is already onto it’s third digipak pressing, and at the time of writing this there are five copies of their limited edition gold tape release left. Head over to their bandcamp to see what you can pick up. MP3s are available of course.
– Words by Aidan G.