Strixskog returns with their latest EP, Through the Raging Seas. Stepping away from the pure black metal sound, they’re able to conjure up triumphant and uplifting images with their skillfully laid out guitars, impressive drumming, and at times, rather melodramatic vocals. Its somewhat of a continuation of their last release, The Hell We Have Chosen, which leaned much more heavily in the black metal sound than this release. I think this is a rather fresh and unique sound that they’re building here and a step in a very interesting direction for a band that already has a couple of rather interesting and unique releases under their belt.
While, there are only two tracks on this EP, its a great taste for what’s to come next. A fantastic choice of orchestral strings greet you with an epic opening that blends so well in that orchestral unison of metal we’re all somewhat familiar with. The guitars are front and center here, having a very traditional heavy metal sound, defiantly taking influence from extreme metal though, certainly of the black and death variety, but, especially on the first track, Not One Stone Shall Be Left, there’s this epic ballad feeling that greets you at the start, and a solid grooving heavy metal riff leads the vocals in. This is such a solid take and rather refreshing to hear coming from the extreme underground these days. The vocals are something that really stood out to me, especially when coming off of their previous release. Before, the vocals were as expected, raw and harsh, something you’d expect from your typical black metal release. But, on this EP, this is truly raw. No screeching or some sort of ghastly effect, but true, raw emotion being belted out and telling a tragically triumphant and epic story through the lyrics. I’m not going to sit here and tell you this is the best heavy metal singing since Dio, but it does suffice, and really gives Strixskog a much more fitting sound, especially since their image has turned more toward the light while still holding onto a fantasy sort of aesthetic. They certainly grew on my after a while, even though I wasn’t to blown away by it and certainly preferred the instrumentals overall, but I just felt like it wouldn’t be a complete package if you left the vocals out.
The second track A New Age Will Be Born, continues down this path, the orchestral strings swell with such emotion and, while the vocals again do have a sort of melodramatic feel to them, its authentic and raw and really just repeats what the first track repeats. This release, obviously, should be listened to back to back as the second track does feel like a completion to the story, but it does still feel like the beginning. A preview of what to come. Both of these songs felt like something truly personal and authentic, but the second track in particular really cements this feeling. Towards the middle end of the song, when the strings swell together and the vocalist drops a few stanzas that can still any trembling heart, it reaches this climax point where the guitars burst in like the sun shining through the clouds, and the vocals feel like a call out to those very rays of light, crying out God in a humble yet desperate plea to get through a raging storm at sea. The closing church bells at the end only help conjure up this mental imagery and its rather powerful and certainly feels like its coming from a place of authenticity.
All in all, this is a fantastic release and really makes me excited to hear the future for this band. This is fresh and interesting EP and Strixskog is shining a light within the US underground that is truly needed. Highly recommend checking this one out.
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