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The history of Soulburn is deeply intertwined with that of Asphyx. In 1998 Bob Bagchus and Eric Daniels, reinforced by Wannes Gubbels, released Soulburn's debut 'Feeding on Angels' which would not have been oddly placed under the Asphyx moniker in a time when Asphyx split ut and reformed at an alarming rate.
Following the comeback of Asphyx in 2007 and the stability that has since followed, Daniels, who never took part in the reunion, and Bagchus, who left Asphyx last year, released Grand Supreme Blood Court's debut in 2012 which was not much more than a lukewarm sequel to 'Last One of Earth'. In 2013 Bagchus and Rogga Johansson, from about a trillion outfits, started the project At The Gallows, which after the addition of Daniels became a revival of the Soulburn moniker then followed by Johansson's departure.
Finally putting my teeth into Soulburn anno 2014 along with the current creativity of Bagchus and Daniels it is with fairly low expectations given the result of the Blood Court offering. If the latter felt uninspired though, the opposite can be said about Soulburn's sophomore disc 'The Suffocating Darkness'. Moving out of their comfort zone and the classical Asphyx sound, Bagchus and Daniels have turned to their roots and drawn fresh inspiration from the 80's primitive black metal sound.
Sure, in the slower sections and upright doomy parts it is obvious that the mainmen were involved in the creation of classics like 'The Rack' and 'Last One on Earth'. The slower riffage simply reeks of said albums. On the other hand, the riffs in the faster sections of 'The Suffocating Darkness' has a dense aura of 80's black metal outfits such as Venom, Celtic Frost and early Sodom. They are primitive and simple, yet devastatingly effective. If spontaneous neck movement does not occur, have your ears checked.
The balance between the heavy Asphyx riffs and the tremolo clad black metal primitivism is executed with good precision and it is perfectly clear that the riffs are the focal point of 'The Suffocating Darkness'. Bagchus' drumming is simple, yet with a special feeling despite never moving out of its supportive role to the guitars. Twan van Geel's guttural gnarls are as straightforward as the drum work and actually rather monotonous, but still fits like a glove over the riff work. The clear and simple production signed by DanSwanö simply reinforces these roles of the instruments.
Apart from 'Absinthesis' and 'I Do Not Bleed from Your Crown of Thorns', who borders on filler material, the album has a high quality threshold with some immense peaks such as the crushing chorus of 'The Mirror Void', the rhythmic tremolo riff in 'In Suffocating Darkness', the odd pace and twists in 'Black Aura' and the melodic riff in 'Claws of Tribulation'. Simply a solid inspired release for those who enjoy their classic Asphyx as well as primitive 80's black metal. Given that the band is now booked for a few festivals the coming Summer I dare raise my hopes that Soulburn is here to stay this time.
also review of: Earthless