Many people try to single out all the time, which band is the best of a country and usually I say that it is impossible for me to do so. Hungary, though, is one nation, where there is no contention in my book, for there is one band that stands head and shoulders over all the others: SEAR BLISS.
Since their debut “Phantoms” in 1996, the atmospheric Black Metal of the Hungarians had been very high in my favour, not just because of the quality of the song material per se, but also because of one defining element: the trombone. Rarely has a genre-foreign instrument been so harmonically woven into this genre as in this case, where it is not just a gimmick, but as an important part of the overall sound.
So how did the Hungarians around mastermind András Nagy progress from 2004’s masterpiece “Glory And Perdition”? Well, they technically have not changed, as you should not fix what is not broken, but at the same time they are not stuck in the dreaded state of standstill. I have the impression that there is a bigger feeling of grandeur to the songs and the trombone seems more prominent than ever, creating the pinnacle of their creations so far: “The Arcane Odyssey”.
“Blood On The Milky Way” is an eight-minute epos, which combines thundering double-bass, slow-paced brooding passages, the gruff vocals of András, majestic melodies and the incredible trombone, which puts the icing on the cake, a grandiose track that grabs you from the get go and just will not let go anymore, some of the dreamy guitar leads almost remind me a little of PINK FLOYD, brilliant! And I think I just found the biggest difference between “Glory And Perdition” and “The Arcane Odyssey”: The songs are longer again, more epic, which to these ears was a good decision (despite me having loved the previous album as well, don’t get me wrong!).
The brooding feeling of “A Deathly Illusion”, the at times almost introverted feeling of “Lost And Not Found”, the mix of measured passages and blastbeat explosions of “Omen Of Doom”, the epic vastness of “Somewhere”, all of these songs would be outstanding highlights on many other bands’ albums, but with SEAR BLISS they are part of a cohesive unit, not just stylistically, but also qualitatively!
And there still is one more surprise in form of closer “Path To The Motherland”, as we do not only get treated to the trombone, but also some flute and violin, embedded into their trademark sound, resulting in something that I could definitely enjoy more frequently than just once, placing an exclamation mark at the end of an overall outstanding album!
SEAR BLISS have managed to achieve their own sound, great quality and now also a deal with their biggest label yet, Candlelight Records, this just HAS to mean that they are at least close to breaking through, they absolutely deserve it!
(Online October 25, 2007)