Runespell has maintained a steady release pace since debuting in 2017 with the Aeons of Ancient Blood demo, releasing a full length each year without there being any dip in quality. This year project founder Nightwolf has continued this trend with Voice of Opprobrium which takes the heroic sounding black metal of its predecessors and merges it with an increased focus on somber interludes. While it doesn’t deviate significantly from what Runespell has provided before, the balance between the two sides keeps the material even more engaging than before and delivers some of the most bone chilling melodies this group has ever written.
Nightwolf has made use of instrumental interludes before but they’ve never been this prominent, as three of the six songs on Voice of Opprobrium strip away the distortion and harsh vocals in favor of acoustic guitar and ominous atmosphere. What’s particularly interesting about this direction is how it balances a sense of calm and reminiscence alongside the battle-ready riffing of the black metal tracks. On the acoustic passages Runespell draws you in with airier melodies that sound as though they’re channeling the spirits of battles long since past, while the distorted ones come through like a call to arms with their searing hot tonality. There are clear references to Polish black metal here, with Graveland coming to mind a fair amount as you make your way through. Compared to the group’s past two full-length’s there’s a bit more clarity to the recording which allows the melodies to come through in greater force than before, and the writing delivers plenty of riffs that will keep you coming back for more.
The vocals come through as harsh and jagged screams, with Nightwolf often touching the higher end of the spectrum similar to that of many second-wave black metal vocalists. It’s a style that’s well suited for the type of powerful and commanding instrumentation, and even though the vocals are slightly buried in the overall mix they have a tendency to break through at just the right moments. There are some deviations to the pitch of the screams over the course of Voice of Opprobrium but they’re fairly subtle and for much of the album they come through in a similar manner, but with how spaced out the verses are the performance never feels repetitive.
Voice of Opprobrium doesn’t feel quite as lo-fi as its immediate predecessor, and that slight increase in clarity goes a long way towards pulling listener in to what Runespell has to offer. With equal amounts of mysterious, chilling acoustic interludes and soaring black metal arrangements, this group has nailed the medieval and ancient feel better than most. It’s clear that Nightwolf continues to refine the formula he’s crafted over the past few years and this album pushes that to its highest level yet. Voice of Opprobrium is available from Iron Bonehead Productions.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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