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Saturday, April 9, 2016

Review: Suidakra - Realms Of Odoric


Being founded in 1994, Germany based Celtic metal band Suidakra is not exactly an unexperienced player in the genre. In fact, after 11 releases they have grown into one of the leading Celtic metal bands in the world, and, arguably, the number one in Germany. A status they’re trying to maintain with the release of their 12th release called ‘Realms of Odoric’, a title that might sound familiar. As to be expected from a Celtic metal band Suidakra, which has no meaning but simply is front man Arkadius Antonik’s first name backwards, finds its lyrical themes in historical facts from Celtic mythology. At least until now, because this time things are slightly different.

This time the theme is based on a fantasy world created by Kris Verwimp, a Belgian artist responsible for an impressive amount of album covers by, among others and in no particular order, Marduk, Manegarm, Ancient Rites and Arch Enemy and writer Filip Keunen, brought to life in a comic book called ‘Odoric, the wall of doom’. This collaboration is not new, it all started three years ago with an artwork/soundtrack project also called ‘Realms of Odoric’ as a result. The main focus in the soundtrack then was about what happened in the world itself, for this release they have focused on the actual characters within the world, their thoughts, feelings and personalities. To make it a ‘legit’ Suidakra album they have added a mix of melodic death metal and traditional metal in which there is plenty of room for the characteristic Celtic influences to the story lines.

‘Realms of Odoric’ clearly showcases the wealth of experience that houses within Suidakra’s members. The twelve songs give you almost 45 minutes of well-balanced music, the digipack even gives you a bonus song called ‘Remembrance’ which makes ‘Realms…’ the longest Suidakra album ever, but that song was not included in my version. There’s a little bit of everything on this album, which could easily spell disaster, but in this case it’s a big plus to be honest. Not only is every song well-composed, the composition and execution also perfectly conjure the atmosphere they need.

It all kicks off with an intro called ‘Into the realm’ that actually makes sense for a change, even though it’s not particularly original to have a dark voice express a message with a deeper meaning. The use of the pipes, played by guest musician Axel Römer are a very nice touch here, which they are throughout the entire album. Try ‘One against the tide’ for example. The songs on ‘Realms…’ are a story themselves, filled with variety in speed, vocals and atmosphere. From pretty much straightforward metal in ‘The serpent within’ to the eerie, haunting, oppressing atmosphere in ‘The hunter’s horde’, my personal favorite, there’s something new to be heard in every minute of every song.

The first half of the album clearly is the darker, more sinister part, with the scary ‘Creeping blood’ as its most prominent representative. In the second half the atmosphere feels much brighter, with the power metalesque ‘Pictish pride’ and the heavy ‘On roads to ruin’, although ‘Dark revelations’ could be considered the exception to the rule. There’s even room for a (semi-)acoustic song called ‘Braving the end’. The earlier mentioned ‘One against the tide’ is, thanks to some well-placed arrangements, an epic build up towards the soothing end called ‘Cimbric requiem’, a great diptych to end a great album.

Like I said before, Suidakra knows how to compose and play, which they show on this release. Multi-instrumentalist, vocalist/growler and front man Arkadius Antonik, drummer Lars Wehner, bass guitarist Tim Siebrecht and lead guitarist Marius "Jussi" Pesch, they’re all equally skilled in their respective roles. They effortlessly vary in speed, rhythm and atmosphere, which makes ‘Realms…’ an interesting journey, but most of all a great album. To add to the quality of their work they employed a few guests who all truly are an asset: Apart from the earlier mentioned Axel Römer on the pipes, Tina Stabel (vocals), Matthias Zimmer (vocals) and Sascha Aßbach (vocals) lend their skills to this album. The production is in the trusted hands of Martin Buchwalter, and he too did a great job. A slightly milder Suidakra delivered a highly varied, qualitatively excellent album.

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