Review by: Meriel Longmore
Review score: 3/5
“Sovereign Nocturnal” consists of three epic nature-inspired tracks of Pagan / Down-tempo / Folky Black Metal. Although this looks like an EP (and is also priced as an EP), it is actually more like a full length album as the tracks are such lengthy compositions. However, it is easy to see why the tracks had to reach such proportions of length. The emphasis here is most certainly on gradually building towards Post-Rock / Post-Metal style crescendos whilst also creating a sombre and majestic atmosphere. The subtle development of the shadowy atmosphere here is something that certainly can’t be achieved through break-neck speeds or crudely thrown together melodies.
VELNIAS use mature song-writing techniques (border-lining on progressive), making use of many moody acoustic passages and slow, sorrowful riffs that gradually build and shift throughout each track. Although it is possible VELNIAS may appeal to those who follow bands such as ENSLAVED, DRUDKH, AGALLOCH, OPETH, and suchlike, the formation of the songs on offer here actually have more in common with the techniques used by bands such as later ISIS and PELICAN, though VELNIAS offer a more melancholic approach to this style and of course a strong Pagan flavour. The Pagan sensibilities and themes are evident throughout the release, from the roughly performed vocals, to the aesthetics, track titles, band name, warm-sounding guitar and bass and also the unobtrusive samples taken from the natural world. This is basically a risk-free release as you know what should be expected, there is little doubt of this. It would be fair to say that this release is an ideal choice for those who are dedicated and perhaps obsessive followers of the Pagan / Progressive / Folk area of Black Metal as “Sovereign Nocturnal” is a more subtle offering than most in this genre though it is not without intensity, due to this fact the release may also be a good choice for those who follow Post-Rock and are looking for something a little different to their usual choice of music.
Overall “Sovereign Nocturnal” is a very promising and sensitively composed release from VELNIAS, however it is likely their very best output is yet to come (with “Sovereign Nocturnal” being their first official release following a demo recording). The band have well-established and strong ideas when it comes to the inspiration behind their work and so this focused attitude will no doubt continue to yield interesting and hypnotic results. VELNIAS are certainly what may be considered an “outsider” Black Metal band along with acts such as the arty and serene WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM who also base their works on nature. To sum it up; “Sovereign Nocturnal” is a superb choice for environmentalists, experimental Metallers and modern-day heathens.