Sear Bliss
Glory and Perdition

Sear Bliss, the pre-eminent Hungarian pagan black metal band, returns with their sixth cd release in their ten year history and fifth full length recording. Once again the album was produced by former guitarist Viktor Scheer. Many aspects of this album remain the same, though some things have changed. This is the first cover not painted by Kris Verwimp, though his bird motif is maintained in all the fallen angels. After several attempts, scheduling conflicts being resolved, we finally are blessed with the long awaited Attila Csihar collaboration. He has guested on vocals so often in the recent past for so many bands the novelty has perhaps lost it’s sheen, but his performance for his countrymates and longtime friends shows him in top form.

Usually when I get an album to review the first thing I do is pull out their previous works if I have them to refresh my memory. With Sear Bliss I don’t have to, I never put the old ones away. They still reside in my cd changer and get frequent play. That means Glory and Perdition has to be something special to top previous works. The first album I heard was The Haunting (also produced by Viktor Scheer), next was Phantoms, and the rest as they were released, so in my head I have a continuous progression towards more intensity though the reality is Haunting was the divergence. What they have evolved into over the last three albums is, while not unique, certainly a signature sound, and not just because of the brass section. The aggressive raging black metal started in Sear Bliss’s early days is amplified in Glory and Perdition partly because the brass section is now fully integrated, not just part of calmer orchestrated sequences, and partly because the songs are shorter and more intense.

The epic grandeur is still theirs to dispense, and now we have several four and a half minute epics to go with their eight minute epics of the past. Songs like “Death in Torment” “The Vanishing” “Hell Within” and “With Mournful Eyes” are their benchmarks, haunting and intense music that is instantly recognizable. This new album has many songs to rival those classics, even though 7-8 minute songs are a thing of the past. The keyboards are toned down even more this time round, but still play an important role. The drumming is more raging, more intense and slightly louder in the mix and Nagy’s vocal delivery is the same as always (who needs Attila), which is a great thing. I’ll offer two excerpts lyrically, “Even if I die now my shadow will haunt you forever” and “I’m lost in the labyrinth of immortality, in the hollowness of despair.” Along with a consistent vocal style, there is a consistent sound quality from album to album, on the raw side of the scale.

Glory and Perdition is not as raw as previous works but is not polished in the symphonic black style. Dark, cruel and powerful would describe the achieved sound. Ten tracks, with seven songs and three interludes only thirty eight minutes, the shortest of their albums. “Birth of Eternity” has subtle keys that sound like bird calls and prominent horns, even competing successfully with the blastbeats. Zoltan delivers much variety in the drumming and Attila’s backing vocals are in the background. This song is followed by a very mellow interlude and then straightaway with blastbeats to open “Night Journey” where the brass section gets the leads, then blastbeats until the very mellow guitar solo ends it. “Glory to Perdition” starts off mid tempo, drums take the lead, dynamic, then blastbeats take over for a while then slow and heavy with warbling guitar melodies that do not overpower. Ominous horns overwhelm the drumming. This is an epic song even though it is only four and a half minutes. “Two Worlds Collide” is memorable instantly with its very dynamic horns that return at regular intervals and its 80’s black / thrash feel. “Shores of Death” has a keyboard melody that wisps throughout and Attila’s vocals stand out strongly, his recondite yet gruesome moment. “Dreams Spectre” is full speed intensity with guitars and horns working especially well together. The final song, at over seven minutes, “Blood Serenade,” would fit in on any of their albums with slow and somber pace, subtle drumming, quiet guitar and, of course, horns that come in strong midway through followed by blastbeats. Intensity builds throughout the song.

A classic in the making. The cover art is by Hungarian artist József Tari and is far and away the best Sear Bliss cover yet. Great image, excellent detail. Get him under contract for the next album. Few bands with ten year histories can claim each album to be superior to the last, Sear Bliss can.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Grimulfr
June 12th, 2004

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