Released: 2013, Altsphere Productions
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
My Latin is a little bit rusty, but I’m pretty sure that PULVIS ET UMBRA translates to something like “listens to Candlemass”. Or maybe “dust and shadow,” but regardless, there’s no doubt that French doomsters Surtr have spent more than a couple of hours worshiping at the altar of Edling. The trio’s sophomore opus PULVIS ET UMBRA is a collection of traditional doom metal in the vein of late 80’s Candlemass (obviously), Gates of Slumber, early Saint Vitus and their ilk. Stylistically, the album seems like it should be everything that a doom fan could ask for, but in execution it falls regrettably short of the mark.
At its core, PULVIS ET UMBRA is just a bland, boring doom record. The 7 tracks on the disc are primarily mid-tempo numbers that plod along with little fanfare or variety; you’ve heard these riffs before, and you’ve likely heard them done better. That’s not to say that the songs are bad, they’re just not interesting. There are a few bright points across the album, particularly “Rebellion” and “Fred Karno’s Army”, both of which sound very inspired by TALES OF CREATION in their presentation. But those moments are weighted towards the end of the album, and chances are you might not make it that far.
Strike two is vocalist Jeff Maurer. Some would call his vocal style “unique”. Others may call it “off-key, warbly, and over exaggerated.” It’s like he’s doing his best Messiah impression while trying not to sound like Messiah, but it gets irritating very quickly. Honestly, it started to give me a headache by the second track. And his delivery is pretty much the same across each track, sometimes in a lower register, sometimes straining for a higher range, but its repetitiveness adds to the album’s meandering feel.
The doom market is a tremendously crowded one with a gamut of talented and aspiring acts vying for your attention, which makes it tough to recommend PULVIS ET UMBRA. Surtr sound like they’ve got some real love for the genre, but affection doesn't necessarily make a for a good listen. Check out Surtr’s website for samples and more info.