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Runespell – Sentinels Of Time

Sentinels Of Time
by Oli Gonzalez at 11 July 2022, 5:41 AM

Some artists are often the most extroverted of all, some love the thrill of being on stage, the glory, the fame, and attention. Others prefer to keep a low profile and stay out the public light. Neither is bad or good I should point out. Some like Nightwolf of RUNESPELL seem to prefer the latter route, and take the solitary wolf path (pun intended), and staying completely off of social media. Perhaps this is a statement to focus purely on the music itself? Either way, I was surprised to find that this was the work of a solitary person. Composition, and instruments. I’ll be blunt; some solo black metal projects are terrible. That’s why part of me was a little anxious about listening to this album. I noted how many of the songs were clocking in at the 10 minute mark. Again, not conforming to the modern standards of keeping songs short and concise for the Spotify generation. Just writing music for oneself.

For me, “Claws of Vanagandr” represents the more ambient, calmer, melodic aspects of black metal. Much in the style of NARGAROTH. The slow, soothing, hypnotic drum groove, the consistent tremolo picking. It all creates that wonderful ambient vibe. A friend of mine once said “you should be able to fall asleep to black metal”. Strangely, I think I could with this number! Also, 10 minutes flies by! Which was interesting, especially for a song that is very slow in it’s progression and doesn’t have too many ideas. These aren’t criticisms by the way, quite the contrary!

Slightly longer at nearly 12 minutes, “Memories of Steel” starts off faster, sharper, and generally heavier than the song that preceded it. Still, many of the positive things I can say for that song can be said for this. There’s a nice ambient feel to the song, a consistent and hypnotic groove. Nightwolf has switched on the distortion pedal and added some much crunchier guitar grooves for this, but returning to the classic tremolo picked riffs synonymous with the genre. All of this feels original yet classic, old but new. A wonderful paradox. Some of the drone effects creeping in towards the song are down right creepy and unsettling. In the best possible way. The way they would be used in a horror movie. I do wonder why this appeared at the end of the song though? I think it would be more effective as an introduction, but I’m not one to question Nightwolf’s compositional skills, which certainly have been demonstrated so far.

Did anybody ask for sharper, brighter, more melodic guitar riffs? Even if you didn’t that’s what you get right at the beginning of “Sentinels of Time”. Combined with the subtle introduction of male Gregorian style chanting, this gives the song an epic fantasy feel. Like you’re traveling on a journey through the black metal world. I find it interesting how this one riff is essentially stretched out for nearly 8 minutes, but with various transpositions, with faster accompanying sections, slower calmer sections. Again, hinting at those detailed compositional skills. This is the first time I hear some classic blast beats too! They lie fairly low in the mix, which totally works, especially as such an explosive technique could easily drown out the rest of the guitars, which need to be center stage for this song.

The album ends with “A Drakkar's Last Journey”. Quiet. Slow. Acoustic. Medieval. All words you could use to describe it musically. Emotionally? Solemn. Atmospheric. I was pretty sad listening to this. Sad not because of the emotions this cleverly crafted work of art induces, but sad because that’s the end of the album. That was a journey indeed, and I’ve listened to this album at least 3 times now. I’ll be certainly doing a deep dive into the back catalogue. It deserves it.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 9
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. Claws of Vanagandr
2. Memories of Steel
3. Sentinels of Time
4. A Drakkar's Last Journey
Nightwolf – All Instruments
Record Label: Iron Bonehead Productions


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