*** Go to our YouTube channel in the link below to see the video review of this record in episode #44 of the SBR Album of the Week.
The SBR album of the year winners for 2021 are back after a remarkable eighteen months. Upon hearing Urne’s Serpent & Spirit two years ago, we speculated that ‘Things will not be the same from here. Relations will be different. The way you conduct your daily affairs will change. This is the impact Serpent & Spirit will have on the UK metal scene once listeners digest its fifty-three minutes of colossal metallic brilliance.’ It seems we were not the only ones to champion the brilliance of Urne’s debut upon its release. A certain Joe Duplantier of Gojira heard it and invited them to his Brooklyn studio to record its follow up effort. Now armed with a Ted Jensen audio mastering, a new drummer, and appearances at ArcTangent and Bloodstock behind them, Urne are ready to take on the world.
In an interview with Scream Blast Repeat in 2021, vocalist, Joe Nally, said of Serpent & Spirit, ‘I think I speak for the rest of the guys, but this band is still in first gear, and now with momentum and confidence with us, I think the next one will be the best one.’ These are fighting words, and those expecting a sequel to their last album will be in for a surprise. A Feast on Sorrow is longer, darker, heavier, and more technical than its predecessor. Post-metal rage, thrash metal pizzazz, and sludgy grooves permeate through this LP like toxic smoke. The trio wrap these ingredients in a progressive framework built upon chunky riffs and heartfelt roars. Out go the Black Sabbath and Orange Goblin sounds from their debut, and in come Conjurer and Machine Head. This is a metal record of loss and anguish, of living with loved ones condemned by degenerative diseases to an early exit from the stage of life.
Like Will Haven, you never know how to describe Urne’s miscegenation of heavy music styles. Opener, ‘The Flood Came Rushing In’, starts with sorrowful ringing chords and sets the scene for a roar of the recurring theme of this record – “Where do the memories go!?” A rapid thrash metal blaze erupts from here like Metallica weighed down by the looser drop-C string tunings of Machine Head. Angus Neyra’s frenetic plectrum action scythes through the speakers like a pack of vultures as Joe Nally belts through the microphone in full chest-protruding mode. It’s not clear if a chorus emerges from this maelstrom of excitement until Nallyrepeats his head voice for a second time after a thrilling exhibition of mid-range fretboard rotations.
You can see why Joe Duplantier is a fan of this band. ‘To Die Twice’ justifies every second of its 05:52 running time thanks to a consistent pummelling of mid-tempo groove metal posturing. The guitarwork is far too technical to pass as sludge metal, yet the tone is too dirty to qualify as thrash. Listen how Angus Neyra and new sticksman, James Cook, test your instincts in the last third of the song with chunky rhythms that throw you off balance you like a skipping record. The deliberate polyrhythm at the end might go unnoticed when you’re so wrapped up in the pathos of Nally’s distressed vocals lamentations. His words reverberate with aching intensity: “What will die first? The heart, the mind, the soul?”
Catching a glimpse of Urne’s record collection is as intriguing as their post-metal take on the thrash genre. Inserting a song of eleven minutes at track three is a brave move, but it’s one that works. ‘A Stumble of Words’ throbs with an open-wound slash of dissonant guitars and builds into a Queensrӱche thrust of dramatic heavy metal chord sequences and hardcore shouting as if the two are natural companions. The emotive Dire Straits solo will surprise you as much as the switch to a high-velocity thrash assault when you least expect it. You know that a song called ‘The Burden’ will leave you with a metaphorical piano on your back. It’s like Machine Head with death metal growls and the incandescent rage of Neurosis. Can you believe that Neyra and Nally began their musical careers in the stoner-doom/hardcore of Hang the Bastard? ‘Becoming the Ocean’ is as far away as you can get from these origins. Tasteful guitar shredding and bone-crunching riffs are not your normal foundations for a dagger-to-the-heart vocal outcry. Urne are not a normal band.
“Losing people is a horrible thing; when the reality hits, it shocks you,” says Nally in the press release. You can feel his anguish on eleven-minute closing track, ‘The Long Goodbye/Where do the Memories Go?’ Melodic doom chords and a fine overdub of weeping guitars worthy of the Top Gun soundtrack segue into a colossal Hetfield crunch as if it’s the Black album revisited. Heavy metal heaven is your destination here as the trio turn on the headbanging tech-thrash and then challenge your senses with a slowdown to solemn drums and a distant voice calling out to the void. Part two begins at 06:48 and ditches the heroic riffing for a more abstract strumming of noise rock phrasing. Nally’s repeat of the line that defines this album’s battle with dementia stays lodged in your head like an aneurysm. Indeed, where do the memories go when your brain degenerates?
Whether this effort betters their debut record remains to be seen, and time will be judge of that, but Urne live up to expectations on album number two. A Feast on Sorrow is a confident body of work that deserves to be talked about in the years to come.
Release Date: 11/08/2023
Record Label: Candlelight Records
Standout tracks: To Die Twice, Becoming the Ocean, The Long Goodbye/Where do the Memories Go?
Suggested Further Listening: Dawnwalker – Ages (2020), Machine Head – Bloodstone & Diamonds (2014), Horndal – Lake Drinker (2021)