Blaze of Sorrow’s melancholic black metal gushes with ashen emotion on shadowy ‘Absentia’

My body never seems to time things very well, so of course I’d get a bad cavity in a tooth and have excruciating pain at a time when the dental industry is pretty much on lockdown. The only place I could go to get this fixed was an hour north from where I live, so I set out very early in the morning to get the pain alleviated via root canal. That drive, of course, was going to require a soundtrack.

By chance, I selected “Absentia,” the sixth full-length effort from Italian black metal band Blaze of Sorrow, and it turns out their emotional, melodic approach matched the beauty of my travels ideally. That might not be the most brutal setup to discuss a record that’s awash in heaviness, but the majesty of the sound is not to be denied, and the fact the band also mentions their respect for nature in the bio materials for this record means I must have been fairly well attuned to what they were aiming for and what my brain needed at the time. Blaze of Sorrow also aren’t here trying to make you think things need to be all evil all the time as the band—vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Peter, guitarist A.S., bassist V., and drummer N.—uses plenty of melancholia, sadness, and sweeping emotion to color their music, and it’s what makes them stand out from so many other bands. The songs are practically, for lack of a better word, infectious.

“Settimo requiem” starts with noise and chants before the body of the song kicks in, and great riffs lap the shores. Peter’s harsh shrieks fire up as melodic charges send jolts, and the riffs keep piling up. Soloing burns hard  as a forceful surge mounts, brighter guitars lead the way, and things rush to an effusive end. “Furia” rouses and blasts ahead with reckless abandon as grim growls wash over, and glorious leads light up the skies. Darker portions follow, though, as the vocals pelt, and the pace gets speedier. The track settles into shadows as the band keeps pounding to the end. “Sonno d’eterno”
has a clean, reflective start before tearing open at the midsection and pouring out guts. The growls scrape while the playing bursts, hammering the senses as punishing leads flow. Colors rage as the pace blasts ahead, and everything comes to a vicious finish.

“Notturna” has a huge opening with big guitars making their way through and gnarly playing leaving bruises. The fiery pace calms for a stretch, letting cool air in before things ramp up again as the storm breaks, and the growls smother. Blackened attacking makes its way in before the song comes to a gigantic finish. “Hybris” is punchy and melodic but also speedy, shaking your brain in your skull. Catchy leads run amok while the soloing scorches, and a brief pause turns into a chaotic burst. “Cupio dissolve” has a tempered beginning as a mood is built, and then the track kicks down the door as gruff growls mash digits. The track continues to penetrate as warm guitar leads send up a light, and the guitars rampage to a damaging end. “Morte di un immortale” closes the album with acoustic flourishes and folkish vibes. Winds woosh through your hair as the world opens up, and the song comes to a rustic final resting place.

“Absentia” is a fantastic record to absorb right about now when so many people are in isolation, and having something that touches upon so much of what you’re feeling really can scratch your surface. No way Blaze of Sorrow could have known any of this was coming or that they planned it this way, but obvious something cosmic is at work here, so it’s nice to have this period to appreciate these songs. This is a band that continues to grow and mature as time goes on, and they sound as strong and balanced as they ever have six records into their career.

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