Smoulder – Dream Quest Ends


Toronto’s Smoulder are a proud exponent of the New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal. That means we get lyrics about demons and necromancers and swords and shields. We also get crunchy palm- muted riffs unleased through a sonic wall of ubiquitous distortion. Add the emotional female vocals into the mix with a thunderous snarl and you have a recipe for some top-class Metal.

Vocalist, Sarah Kitteringham, should be well known to those who subscribe to Banger TV to keep up to date on all things Metal. Her tastes gravitate towards 1970s proto-Metal, Folk Metal and everything inspired by NWOBHM. She also has an appreciation for Neurosis, Tomb Mold and Pig Destroyer, so knows a thing or two about the full spectrum of our beloved genre. No doubt she has a lot to offer in her day job as a great contributor to Encyclopaedia Metallicus, but is this a vanity project or a true calling?

One thing becomes apparent on listening to Dream Quest End’s three new cuts; this band have a penchant for all things heavy. Epic Doom is a more accurate description of the soundscapes on offer here with the twin guitar attack creeping through your headphones like an oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico. The pace never gets beyond 120 bpm, but who cares when you have a valley of distorted Black Sabbath riffs to seep into your sensory nervous system.

Opener, ‘Dream Quest Ends’, swirls with a riff straight from Sabbath Bloody Sabbath while Kitteringham ditches her head voice for a full throat delivery of vibrato-filled notes most Metal singers approach at their peril. And it works. The guitars are never stagnant, either. Fans of Paradise Lost’s Gregor Macintosh will appreciate the higher end melodies on display here. 

‘Warrior Witch of Hel’ is an early contender for Metal anthem of the year with its fist-clenching narrative delivered with another masterful performance by Kitteringham. Listeners will find it irresistible to lower their shoulders and circle their head to the doom-laden riffs before a gallop kicks in and brings you to the edge of a mid-tempo thrash. Candlemass come to mind as you swirl your head in unison.

Closer, ‘Cage of Mirrors’, is the weakest track, yet hardly a stinker. An intro of natural harmonics plucked from acoustic strings set it up for another epic journey through a Led Zeppelin-inspired riff that soon leads into Manowar territory. The band allow the drummer to demonstrate the full range of his skills while the acoustic reprise offers a welcome reset at the half-way point. 

Whether a whole album of this would be as interesting is debatable. Of course, the lyrics are ridiculous and the imagery on the front cover is a clear indication of the band’s love of all things in the realms of fantasy saga. But who cares when the riffs are as monstrous as this and the bass is gargling underneath the surface like an impending tremor?

Sometimes you need to sit back, crack open a beer, turn out the lights and ponder the unseen kingdom beyond. This is your soundtrack.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 13/03/2020

Record Label: Cruz Del Sur Music

Standout tracks: Warrior Witch of Hel

Suggested Further Listening: Black Sabbath – Master of Reality (1971), Candlemass – Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (1986), Trouble – Trouble (1990)