“Eternal Recurrence”, Hungarian SEAR BLISS’ first album in five years, easily has been one of my most anticipated releases of 2012, not least thanks to their outstanding “The Arcane Odyssey” effort of 2007, with its pretty unique infusion of the trombone into their very epic Black Metal sound.
Going with the line-up on their seventh full-length, there seems to have been quite the upheaval within the Szombathely-based band, since with the exception of guitarist and mastermind Andras Nagy no member of said album is returning and three former members have returned into the fold for the band’s second effort on Candlelight Records. But things like that have happened before and often were not a big deal in terms of quality or style, especially if the main song writer stayed the same, so as soon as the promo became available, I was all over it.
And the first reaction once I started listening was to check, if I had selected the right folder, because I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was in the wrong movie somehow. Gone is most of the epic grandeur, gone is the ultimately catchy and dense atmosphere, arrived have strong progressive and at times almost jazzy influences (especially in the trombone) and definitely arrived has the band’s tinkering with disharmony, something that in the past has pretty much always spelled disaster in regards to their compatibility with me.
Now “Eternal Recurrence” is a very hard-to-digest album that will take quite some time to wrap your mind around and while it definitely is a step into a new direction, and I commend them for not playing it safe, they are definitely taking a big risk by moving into previously unchartered waters and thus potentially alienating a good part of their fan base.
A loose base of Melodic Black Metal is now paired with progressive and at times avantgardistic leanings, including experimentation with clear vocals and effects, sometimes reminding me a bit of Norwegian masters ENSLAVED, just overall less accessible. With “There’s No Shadow Without Light” there is only one track that still reminds me of one of my all-time favourite bands of the Melodic Black genre, despite the clear vocals and the lack of trombone ironically enough, the rest is sailing on a completely different boat.
It took me a long time and many, at the beginning highly unsuccessful, tries before I managed to find my way into this album and while I can definitely appreciate the band’s evolution and courageous step outside of their comfort zone, I must say that they pretty much lost me, a fan of theirs since their debut “Phantoms” had surfaced way back in 1996, in the process, and trust me, it was not for the lack of trying!
If you loved SEAR BLISS in the past, approach with caution, you will need an open mind and an affinity for the progressive and at times avantgardistic to appreciate this work, like the jazzy trumpet of “The Eternal Quest”, the avant-garde tinge of “Ballad Of The Shipwrecked”, the blastbeat eruptions of “The New Era Of Darkness” that are embedded into their new approach or the very odd vocal effects of “Entering The Seventh Gate”, a very difficult track.
While not a bad album in any way, the Hungarians still managed to dish out one of my personally biggest disappointments of the year, because while my tastes continue on straight, their latest release have taken a sharp turn left and thus separating our ways. If for good – only time will tell (or the next album), but there is a fairly good chance that this band/fan relationship might be in for very rocky future...
(Online April 29, 2012)