The name of the Artist, Kull, may be new to the reader; the personnel involved undoubtedly will not be. For Kull is comprised of the members of British fantasy metal purveyors Bal-Sagoth, save for that unit’s leader Byron Roberts. And in Exile, these musicians continue the rich legacy instigated in their former guise.
Exile was written to be the next album in the Bal-Sagoth universe; hence the listener is not surprised to find many familiar tropes exhibited. The opening fanfare of instrumental Imperial Dawn heralds the new dawn just as expected. In fact had it not it can be surmised that many fans of long standing would have been dearly disappointed. Equilibrium is thus established; the listener can move on. But any trepidation that Exile might be a departure from that which has gone before is crushed by Set-Nakt-Heh, which again fulfils the necessary prophecy. New addition Tarkan Alp fills the leadership role with aplomb. Still, the mix of spoken word and stygian vocal posture is evident. Listeners will note perhaps an increased intensity in the delivery of Alp, a brutality in approach that enables the artist as a unit to extend it’s theatre of operation from the symphonic fields of yore to a more visceral, prosaic yet effective metallic territory.
Hence Vow of the Exiled – which perhaps could be viewed as the entire work in microcosm – still fulfils the premise of Bal-Sagoth in its original iteration. The Maudling brothers continue to add their orchestral floridity wherever they deem it necessary. Dissonant horn sections form an emphatic backdrop to synthesizers and adamantine guitar. Yet the overall feel is of something bigger than anything that has gone before. New ground is broken with keenly-honed old tools.
The idea of sturm und drang as evinced in the work of J.C.F. Bach’s Die Auferweckung des Lazarus finds a modern comparative in the album’s meisterwerk, A Summoning to War (Dea Bellorum Invicta), wherein all the devices at the band’s disposal are deployed with primal force. The effect is obvious for those with the will to hear; Kull has performed to the utmost of each member’s ability to create an apotheotic work that cannot fail to appeal to all acolytes of blackened music. This theme is approached again in more simplistic yet without diminishment of effect on the seething maelstrom of By Lucifer’s Crown.
Original fans of Bal Sagoth will recognise much that is here and appreciate where the band has striven to add new strands to its legacy. New listeners will find much to admire in the crystalline production and professionally executed compositions. Truly this is both music for everyman and those of more refined taste. An unmitigated success on every count.
Exile is out on May 10th.