Although they didn’t release their debut EP until 2017 in “Nigredo“, Dutch Metal quintet Shuulak were forged from the fires of previous musical collaborations in 2014 with a shared interest in alchemy and the occult providing inspiration for their dark creations. That record serves as the first of a tetralogy, which tells of alchemical enlightenment before 2018’s “Albedo“, 2019’s “Citrinitas” and lastly 2020’s “Rubedo“, each one exploring Man’s obsession with things that could only serve to destroy him, telling the tales of the alchemists’ path to enlightenment and the myriad ways desires for greatness inevitably end in madness and depravity.
Very much a Traditional Metal band, Shuulak have the rarest of breeds in their lead guitarist Eve Laetitia and offer a satisfying crunch in the riff department thanks to some pre-Metalcore guitar tones which give them a real edge. As a concept release “Rubedo” isn’t reliant on it’s predecessors for an understanding of the narrative and stands well alone, which is a blessing when it comes to such releases. Opening cut “Ancient Sins” is along similar lines to what you might expect of bands like Kalahri and The Raven Age, a certain amount of Iron Maiden influence felt within its constructs and a wonderful melodic part that Trivium would kill to write. That continues into “Scourge of Aeons” with Bastiën Baron’s clean vocals and storytelling skills perfectly delivering the well thought out narrative. The lead moments are short and sweet and it’s not until the spoken word title track that you might think that this band are Dutch, the accenting on the vocals is barely noticeable. “The Azoth” has Baron sounding not to far away from the kind of vocal stylings you might expect from Disturbed main main David Draiman while the sinister grooves keep a nice flow to the record as a whole and that classically styled solo is majestic. The finale however is the last thing you might expect after the riffs of the earlier tracks. A thing of aching beauty with intertwining vocals that boarders on choral as it worships the Universal Medication of Azoth [7.5/10]