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Review: Ysgaroth - Storm Over a Black Sea
Storm Over a Black Sea

Label: Independent
Year released: 2020
Duration: 49:05
Tracks: 6
Genre: Black/Death


Review online: October 27, 2020
Reviewed by: Mjölnir
Readers' Rating
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Rated 3.67/5 (73.33%) (6 Votes)

Ysgaroth's debut album is frustrating for me to write about, mostly because it is incredibly close to being the arrival of a great band that is held back by some crippling flaws. Storm Over a Black Sea is an exercise in kinetic Black/Death that takes inspiration from acts like Skeletonwitch and Wolves in the Throne Room to create something experimental without sacrificing aggression or urgency in the slightest. When I hear the jaw-dropping riffs of the intro track, I always expect to hear the band crank out an innovative and exciting new sound, and at their very best that's exactly what they do. Songs like "Forward Unto Death" and the colossal 17-minute closer "Deluge" perfectly highlights what this band can do, spinning out intricate and aggressive tracks with killer riffs, pummeling drums, complex and strange song structures, and absolutely gorgeous lead work, all contained within a raw, savage production job which sports a guitar tone that cuts like a jagged stone dagger. I could complain that the songs can lose shape and that "Altar of Scars" has enough material for six minutes and goes on for 11, but I could overlook those faults easily. No, what really ruins this album for me is Kurt Stiegler, whose feral, inventive guitar work is a serious highlight of the album, but it isn't enough to make up for what may be the worst harsh vocals I have ever heard. He tries to go for a goblin-esque shriek and winds up sounding like a strangled cat desperately trying to imitate a dying rat, and the vocal lines have him yattering over the album and ruining the music around him. His roars are a little better, but sound closer to a chain-smoker stubbing their toe rather than someone I'd be scared of, so I can't say strictly switching to that would be a real improvement. I hate singling him out like this, as he's the driving force behind the band and responsible for some of its best moments, but his dire vocal performance actively makes this album hard to listen to in spite of its quality. He intended for someone else to do the vocals in the beginning, and I really think he should let someone else step in to do them instead, because with a better singer I can see this band becoming an overnight sensation in the scene, and deservedly so. As it stands, this is a promising young band that's held back from greatness, and without a significant change to the vocals, I don't see that changing anytime soon.

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