PICK OF THE WEEK: Sojourner’s foray into fantastical wonders enlightens ‘The Shadowed Road’

We don’t do a lot of music in the folk-metal territory for no real good reason. It’s a fun genre full of heart and passion, and while it might not be our preferred style of music, there are bands out there that make an indelible impression and whose music finds a proper place next to all the violence and doom soot in our record collection.

One of those bands is Sojourner, a group that’s spread over different areas including New Zealand, Switzerland, and Italy and whose music can give you a boost of energy even on your shittiest of days. The band’s second record “The Shadowed Road” has arrived, and it’s a tour-de-force of power and passion, seven tracks spread over nearly 52 minutes that are both metallic and full of wonder. This isn’t the style of folk metal that makes you think of drinking in a sunburnt field all day and wearing weird clothing (and there is zero wrong with that). These sound like fantastical adventures on which you’re invited to partake, and some of the waves are violent and bruising. The band—Emilio Crespo (vocals), Mike Lamb (guitars, piano, synth), Chloe Bray (guitars, tin whistle, vocals), Mike Wilson (bass), and Riccardo Floridia (drums)—capitalizes on what they did so well on their 2016 debut “Empires of Ash,” and the music here can be a perfect escape from your daily frustrations as you battle alongside them. This album is a joint effort of Avantgarde and Folkvangr, giving it a wider reach and a ton of ways to hear it or own it.

“Winter’s Slumber” kicks off the record with keys dropping in, a glorious riff overtaking, and an approach that reminds a bit of modern-day Amorphis. Grim growls from Crespo mix with Bray’s clean singing, creating a fascinating dynamic, while the song surges. Whistles push, synth creates a fog, and the vocals wrench as the song comes to its end. “Titan” is ominous as it begins, sending chills, and then the track opens with the wail of, “Nothing will ever be the same again!” The song punches as it bubbles, with fast, melodic guitars bringing a sense of Iron Maiden histrionics, and the whirry synth mixes with the brutal growls to play tricks on your mind. “Ode to the Sovereign” begins with synth glow as the song unfurls and eventually bursts open. The vocals crush, while the chorus swells, and Bray’s voice floats above the mystical keyboard lines, sending you back over the triumph and into a welling pool.

“An Oath in Sorrow” has gothy keys dripping and an aura of calm before the serenity is pierced. Bray’s voice carries us through, wondering, “What have you become?” as the band sets a mid-tempo assault. Later, Crespo belts out devotion, noting, “You were always there by my side,” with the battle moving into the dark, and the end sending charges. “Our Bones Among the Ruins” is punchy with creaking growls and a blistering pace. The guitars bubble and lighten the way, while the song later draws back, allowing keys to flourish before the track bursts anew, blasting everything into a mist. “Where Lost Hope Lies” is the longest cut at 9:53, and it starts in shadowy cleanliness before the track erupts. Bray’s voice sweeps into the atmosphere, as the band provides an equal amount of energy and heaviness. The leads go off, while the drums lay waste, and then the pace eases up to allow a breath of woodwinds into the scene. But it’s not long until the track swallows the world, letting a raucous folk-style run to set up shop, sadness over distance and desperation to paint its colors, and the keys to splash its last jolts. The title track ends the record, and it’s very different from what preceded it in tone. The song is awash in sadness and vulnerability for the first part before Crespo’s growls join in, and the guitars open the sky. Emotion rushes and builds, with the guitars creating lightning, the dual vocals ensnaring your mind, and the track coming to a huge crescendo, leaving your heart a fluttering mess.

Sojourner’s excellent second effort “The Shadowed Road” is a huge step ahead for them, as they smear their folk-based creations with black metal fury and classic metal passion. This album bursts at the seams with strength and melody, and the songs will carve their way into your mind. The songs reek of old battles and struggles won, with the band hammering home these tales that will enrapture you as you immerse yourself in their world.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/metalsojourner/

To buy the album, go here: https://folkvangrrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-shadowed-road

Or here: http://avantgardemusic.bigcartel.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/folkvangrrecords/

And here: http://www.avantgardemusic.com/