Review: “The Curse” by Snakeblade

Initially a one man Black Metal project with Power Metal leanings from Vancouver Canada masterminded by multi instrumentalist Mike Redston when last years debut album “The Kingdom” inspired by the fantasy of Lord of the Rings, The Witcher, Metal Gear Solid and Dungeons and Dragons surfaced, Snakeblade has begun an evolution into the realms of Blackened Thrash with “The Curse“. Inspired by Game Of Thrones and blurring the lines between the plotlines of The Red Woman, Stannis Baratheon and the Lord of Light religion with his own personal ones of betrayal, failure, and rage, Redston has once again created an epic back story. This time out he has brought on board session drummer Dennis Kraakman for the sophomore full length that was written immediately after the first record, but worked upon for an extended period afterwards…

…some may consider this second burnt offering something of a concept album and it certainly has all the hallmarks of one. It starts with the epic grandeur of introduction piece “Destiny” that is an orchestrated piece of cinematic style before “Rotten Souls” hits. While the transition between those two cuts isn’t as smooth as it could be, overall sonically the progression is there for all to see in terms of complexity and scale. The addition of orchestral elements like strings, piano and choirs make a big difference but the key is that this is still very much Snakeblade, there is a continuity in the throat shredding shrill vocals and guitar work between the two records that means this is an evolution rather than a revolution. A fine example of that is “Harvester” which has plenty of Black Metal structural integrity and all the artillery shelling of blast beast that anyone could ever want courtesy of Dennis Kraakman. The album isn’t perhaps as raw as the first, but it still has a raw feel to it that gives it a dark charm and like bourbon aged in Oak casks for a decade or more the album has an aged feel, which isn’t a bad thing in any respect. A lot of effort has been poured into the atmosphere on this album with longer, slower build ups meaning longer cuts overall, each one as well constructed as the last with very little fat that could be trimmed. “The Red Mage’s Seduction” makes for the albums finest point, the obvious first single and a fire breathing rampage through Blackened Thrash with some eerie and haunting moments of spellbinding musicality interwoven into the fabric of some of the longer instrumental passages. The mid-cut solo is an absolute Face Melter, one of a number of flamboyant additions that show the confidence Redston has gained before he screams “God damn that woman, she’s the devil incarnate!“, the kind of line you can imagine from the likes of King Diamond. Continuing to show off that confidence and swagger with the more technical riffage of “Foul Sorcery of Flame and Shadow“, Redston uses the kind of spoken word we’ve heard from Dave Mustaine of Megadeth to give us another voice while also incorporating a drop out to acoustic guitar with an electric lead accompaniment t0 close that is the kind of inspired moment that other musicians would kill for. In all honesty, all that is perhaps lacking in the album is the budget to be able to have someone like Scott Atkins or Ted Jansen mix and master because that would give it that something extra. The flamenco inspired acoustic guitars of “Godswood” are incredible, a Trivium inspired moment of clarity before the plunge into the all out onslaught of “Born Among Salt and Smoke“, a whirlwind of percussive battery laying down the blueprint. Its chaotic and thrashy but has enough control to be able to lend itself to the orchestral embellishments without falling apart. The Blade is rising, where will it strike next? [7.5/10]

Track listing

1. Destiny (Intro) (1:42)
2. Rotten Souls (6:48)
3. Harvester (3:35)
4. Dreams of Aida (1:53)
5. The Red Mage’s Seduction (6:01)
6. Foul Sorcery of Flame and Shadow (5:04)
7. Godswood (2:28)
8. Born Among Salt and Smoke (5:46)
9. Archways (3:05)
10. Exile, Outlaw… The Essence (6:34)

The Curse” by Snakeblade is out 13th October 2021 via Moonshooter Productions and is available for pre-order over at bandcamp

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