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Review: Sumerlands - Sumerlands

Label: Relapse Records
Year released: 2016
Duration: 32:03
Tracks: 8
Genre: Heavy Metal

Rating: 2.75/5

Review online: February 17, 2017
Reviewed by: Omni
Readers Rating


Sumerlands made quite a big splash with this album last year, so I had to see for myself what the hype was all about when I saw this album on sale through the Relapse Records website at the holidays. As a fan of Jos A. Smith's artwork, I was immediately compelled to click on the album and see what I was missing. I'm a big fan of Phil Swanson's vocals in Hour of 13 and Briton Rites, and I enjoyed Eternal Champion's debut album, The Armor of Ire, which also featured Arthur Rizk and John Powers on guitars. Reprising his other role from that album, Rizk also handles production duties. I wasn't expecting this album to sound like any of those other bands, but I figured that I could reasonably expect something of similar quality.

Relapse Records advertises the album as being very similar to heavy metal from the '70s and '80s and there is some similarity in the musical style and production values to those albums, but also some elements that give it away as a distinctly modern album. The punchy guitar sound is fairly close to a lot of current modern rock and the vocals have some delay and reverb on them that give them a unique and very modern style. I'm a big fan of Phil Swanson's voice and I think that he is quite unrecognizable on this album when compared to his other work, with these effects putting him somewhere between early solo Ozzy Osbourne and Ivan Moody from Five Finger Death Punch. It works for this unique hybrid of arena metal and modern rock. When viewed in that context, this album is actually pretty successful. Unfortunately, I'm a bit of an old school fanatic and this isn't really up my alley. The musicianship is solid and a lot of the songs are catchy, although the band seems like they're stuck in a mid-paced groove throughout most of the album. A lot of the album wouldn't sound out of place on a modern rock radio station with moody songs such "Timelash" and "Lost My Mind" sounding like potential crossover hits that would get a fair bit of airplay. "Spirit Infinite" is the one song that really caught my attention, being a little bit more energetic than the rest of the album. I wish there were more songs like this one, as I could see this more upbeat version of the band's arena metal as having more potential than the slower pace of the material on the rest of the album.

While this album didn't do much for me even after several listens, it seems like it would be a great crossover album for people who haven't quite bridged the gap from the heavier rock of today into heavy metal. The album is best viewed as a current interpretation of arena metal with a lot of modern touches. As such, those looking for another Hour of 13 or Eternal Champion may be disappointed. I'd be willing to listen to another album from Sumerlands, even though I found this debut album underwhelming. I would also recommend this album to fans of High Spirits, which is another band that's pushing into somewhat similar territory by blending late '70s and early '80s metal and arena rock with more current aesthetic sensibilities.

Other related information on the site
Review: Sumerlands (reviewed by MetalMike)
Review: Sumerlands (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
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