Earthless Pagan Spirit

When Soulburn reformed in 2014, I was pleasantly surprised at their return album after 16 years, namely The Suffocating Darkness.  To this day is still one of my all time favorite blackened death/doom albums and yes I have heard all the great albums and own most from 30 years prior.  Soulburn incorporated alot more black metal into their sound, whereas they skirted briefly with it on their ’98 perfect debut, Feeding on Angels, The Suffocating Darkness was about 70% death/doom metal and 30% black metal, with an increase in the Venom and Bathory tones.  The addition of Twan van Geel, as vocalist, added to the influence since his vocals are pretty much older school black metal.  Eric Daniels, the creator of godly heaviness, still retained his crushing Asphyx guitar tone and Remco on guitar, helped steer the direction into more black metal territories.  Add in Bob Bagchus, driving home the drums to collapse your chest cavity, The Suffocating Darkness crushed beyond belief and still does and will do for years to come. 

Earthless Pagan Spirit has increased the black metal influence to the point I put the album at 80% black metal and 20% death metal.  Soulburn have opted for more of a stripped down production.  Still crushing, with parts of the album recorded at Harrow Studios, the guitar tone is rooted in pure 80’s/early 90’s black metal.  I miss more of the crushing riffs, that were prevalent on the past 2 Soulburn albums, and the Eric Daniels crunch is pretty much gone. It does rear it’s bruising head on “The Blood Ascendant”, quite viciously.  The 2 minute mark being the part where you’re crapping your pants and screaming, “Oh my dark lord, this is the Holy Shit part, momma”.  I really wanted more of those bone crushing riffs on the rest of the album, but guess what??  I’m not in the band so it’s more subjective than anything else.  Luckily Soulburn return to this riff again in the song and Bob just smashing the shit out of the drums.  The song picks up some pace and goes back into the deathly doom parts and is one of the best songs on this album.

Although the Daniel’s signature guitar crunch has been replaced with more black metal riffs and melodies, understand this-these riffs are ferociously original and dynamic.  I’m still in awe at some of the catchy parts.  You will hum these tracks in your head while snarling right alongside Twan.  “Spirited Asunder”, at over 7 minutes, is the longest song here and also the best one on Earthless Pagan Spirit.  Heavy, distorted riffs, with an outstanding black melody doomy element that will tear your soul apart.  Killer snarling vocals and the depressive and emotive elements with the guitar melodies have an epic quality to them.  In one sitting I played this track 5x in a row.  That’s like the length of an album.  And the spoken word, Quorthon like viking moments that creep in at the 2.45 mark and from this point forward in the song, are chilling, brilliant and mesmerizing.  Almost has a little goth feel, to those spoken word parts.  I’m telling you, incredible, work!  I would love to hear these moments expanded upon on the next Soulburn album as well as more of Eric’s signature guitar death crunch guitar tone to return. This is the first pressing, so it’s in deluxe cd format.  “The Last Monument of God” is the bonus track, which sounds re-recorded, from their 7”.  Killer track.  

The packaging with the o-card, contains lyrics, pictures and a rather stark looking album cover.  This cover goes along with the sound Soulburn were clearing creating  with Earthless Pagan Spirit.  Desolate, cold, dark, depressing, evil and emotive.  I have to hand it to Soulburn for coming up with Earthless Pagan Spirit; a highly original album that is one of this years finest albums.  Well done fellas!!

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Frank Rini
January 17th, 2017


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