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Enter Gevurah’s Sulphurous Soul

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How do you follow a monumental breakthrough record for your group? There are obviously a great deal of possible answers to this question, and that’s precisely the root of the option paralysis that sometimes trips up groups trying to follow up their big success. Gevurah have chosen to pursue slow incremental change with a focus on nailing fundamentals like strong songwriting and memorable riff writing rather than any cosmic leap forward on Sulphur Soul. While this can be somewhat disappointing to those who look to groups for quantum reconfigurements record to record to surprise them, this is ultimately beneficial. Sure, it is easy to put on Sulphur Soul and think, during its four moderate-length tracks over its crystalline 32 minutes, that you’ve heard the band do these tricks before, but it’s also hard to fault the approach when they release a record so consistently satisfying and without any real flagging moments or weak tracks.

Gevurah rose to prominence in the underground extreme metal work off of the back of their previous album Hallelujah!. That record was a substantially longer affair, totalling over an hour with a massive near 20-minute closer that played more like a self-contained single-track EP tacked on to the end of the album than a proper album closer. It is easy to imagine, were the positions of these releases to be switched, that Hallelujah! would still be the breakthrough record; track by track, those felt more eruptive in a creative sense, feeling often like a band writing and playing at the limits of their abilities and finding, through great strain and severity, those same limits begin to soften and expand. It is an enthralling record consisting of intense spiritualist Luciferian black metal, liberatory in spirit rather than the more punitive or at times even explicitly fascistic branches that thought-space sometimes produces, and rightfully won the praise it did when it was released in 2016.

Sulphur Soul, then, in the shadow of that previous record, feels often more like an addendum rather than a new complete statement, a post-script rather than a fully new project. The riffs are largely mid-tempo, featuring at times blistering tremolo picking and blast beats but shifting chords at a slow enough pace that it still maintains that mid-tempo feel. As a result, the work feels more deliberate than explicitly cathartic, feral, or any of those other more intensely animalistic sides of black metal some come to the genre for. But where other groups might spice up their compositions with avant-garde textures and provide a bit more deliberate variance from track to track, the works on Sulphur Soul sound and feel largely the same. They mine the same arcing riffs that evoke robed figures humming in choirs beneath some Satanic cathedral, contain well-researched and charismatically conveyed lyrics regarding Lucifer as light-bearer within the darkness of the world, and are more or less successful in their intent. They just often have too much similarity riff to riff or track to track to provide that stark sense of creative wonder that their previous album did.

This would be a bigger problem if the quality of work were lower. In the grand scheme, Sulphur Soul is a minor work for the band, clearly overshadowed by Hallelujah! which dominates it almost at every turn. But outside of the shadow of that record, it stands as a fine black metal album, one dosed with the right amount of the more hoary ends of death metal and doom that we come to expect from these more genre-unbound underground acts, and still has a strident, well-figured and deeply moving lyrical core. Most importantly, the 32-minute run-time clearly feels it is because the band trimmed sections and material that simply didn’t measure up. You still get songs averaging eight minutes in length with multiple sections and progressive arrangements that eschew verse-chorus formats; the only difference between this and some other bands’ records is it’s good songs from start to finish. And that counts for something.

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