Brymir - Voices in the Sky - (9.5/10)
Published on September 11, 2022
I remember Brymir’s previous album, “Wings of Fire”, quite well. It was my introduction to the band, and the only album I previously heard from them. I thought it was solid in its entirety, and some songs remained somewhat constant in my always changing playlist, even until now. With that in mind, it was a no-brainer that their newest record, “Voices in the Sky”, would be a mandatory listen for me.
Brymir’s sound is very well suited in the vastness of Finnish melo-death with an epic, orchestral and Nordic touch. But of all the bands following this route (Wintersun, Insomnium, Wolfheart, etc.), Brymir is probably the one I found most surprising. The reason for that lies in the modern, sometimes almost electronic edge to their sound, that absolutely shouldn’t fit with the raw epicness of Scandinavian extreme metal, but in some strange way, the way they do it fits like a glove. And it’s why I would add power metal among the list of genre influences that Brymir encompasses, on top of epic, symphonic, melodic, and dare I say, technical death metal. And then this new album seems to also add folk to the mix, making the contrast of raw and modern, even more accentuated.
Given the bands I compared them to, I probably don’t have to tell you at this point that the blast beat are their favourite drum technique. Blast beats cover so much of the album’s run time and somehow seem to fit over melodies, riffs, clean vocals, and harsh vocals all the same. It’s taken to the point where it could even get annoying, if it didn’t just sound so damn good all the time! But drummer Patrick Fält isn’t only capable of playing one technique. There are moments of groovy headbang, power metal style double kick drumming and a ton of blistering transitions that I can only love. On top of that, guitarists Joona Björkroth and Sean Haslam bring a beautiful blend of extremely tight, high octane riffage and epic melodies, sometimes bright and glorious (“Herald of Aegir”) and sometimes eerie, tense and ominous (“Forged in War”). Most songs are pretty straightforward in structure and quite short, which means that despite the intense technicality, each track is compact, striking and effective, with a superb capacity to hook the listener. Their sound is a brutal battering but at the same time, it’s beautiful, smooth, digestible and glorious. The bass stays mostly functional as a background instrument, which for their approach to songwriting is certainly not a problem, but I was quite delighted to hear it get some love and be brought forward a bit more during “Landfall”, although that’s happening under a guitar solo, so it doesn’t get the full spotlight.
And that gets me to guitar solos. Every song has at least one solo, if not two. Most of them are extremely shreddy and technical yet very melodic. They’re short lived but punchy enough to make an impression that will last way longer than the solos themselves, and they often end in a climactic point of drama from which the song needs a few suspenseful seconds of atmosphere before dropping back into the riffage (“Fly with Me” is a good example). Technique and musicality are once again beautifully balanced.
That settles most of what the band’s assets are in terms of creating the bombastic instrumentation. But there’s a lot of atmosphere to the music as well. It comes as a result of acoustic guitars with a strong folky edge, often being used as intros or interludes and creating either tension and suspense, or just relaxing the listener only to later be ambushed by the full band’s sound once more. And as with any epic melodic death metal band, there’s a strong need to use massive orchestrations as well, making the music cinematic, vibrant and surreal, as well as simply huge in its overall sound. Despite the epicness and soaring melodies though, the album remains quite dark.
Vocalist Viktor Gullichsen is there as a death metal singer, with a strong, convincing but not very varied delivery of mid-range screams and growls. It was never the vocal delivery that I thought to be Brymir’s strongest asset, but it sure does the job it needs to do in giving these songs life and power, as well as a story. However, the vocal spectrum is vastly enriched by frequent use of choirs, which I would assume are either performed by the entire band, or sampled, and I would very much hope it’s the first option. Regardless, the growl-choir alternation makes the songs endlessly more interesting, surprising and dynamic, keeping the listener hooked and never allowing anything to get too repetitive on the vocal front. Apart from this, we also hear gang shouts every now and then, and some cool moments of spoken word in “Borderland” and “All as One”, the former using Ukrainian words with a clear reference to the war currently taking place. The songs that follow also speak of this topic, which is very well fitted against the dramatic, battle driven themes that Brymir’s sound tends to go towards.
While most songs are fast-paced, straightforward and deliver an insane amount of energy, the longer tracks on the album take a different route. “Rift Between Us” gives a slower tempo with slightly more mellow guitar leads and an overall more spaced-out feeling to the instrumentation. And “All as One” serves as an epic album closer with a thunderous feel, more rhythmic and brutal riffage and a more diversified song structure, with a longer instrumental section, longer solo as well as a piano break before the finale. But if that wasn’t enough to close the album, these daring Finns decided they can also play black metal. The final track is a cover to “Diabolis Interium” from Dark Funeral. It’s kept very close to the original in delivery, shifting away from the melodic and epic sound of Brymir, but keeping the tight and clean playing, offering a cleaner and more polished version of the song.
If there’s one thing to complain about with this album, it’s probably that most songs are quite predictable in structure and the vibe stays pretty much the same throughout, but that might just be me listening to too much prog… Overall, it’s a very beautifully crafted album displaying tremendous musicianship as well as clever songwriting and loads of soaring epicness. It’s a bridge between the accessible and the extreme and yet another proof that no one does melodic death metal the way it’s done in Finland!