Reviewed: [February 2021]
Released [2020 Silent Watcher Records]
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Serbia’s Anguish Sublime have been kicking around in one way, shape or form since 1998 and only now – at the height of a pandemic that has essentially pushed a worldwide pause button – have they released their first length. Oh well, so much for fortuitous timing.
Maelstrom Imperium comes four years after their last EP Thornwinged capped a comparatively productive stretch for the band, following the 2014 debut EP Unveiling The Origin and a cover-version single of Bathory’s “Under The Runes” to mark the 10-year anniversary of the death of mainman Quorthon. The “band” now consists primarily of founding members Aleksandar Crnobrnja (guitarist, composer) and Árpád Takács (vocalist, lyricist). But the pair have put together an ambitious effort in their long-time-in-coming first album.
Self-described as “atmospheric death metal,” Anguish Sublime recall the likes of Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, Amorphis or Dark Tranquillity with their combination of doomy despair, death metal heft and occasional black metal shrill, Goth-style dark melodies and pomp, and epic sprawl. There is certainly no shortage of grandiosity here in the majestic flourishes of Crnobrnja’s guitar work, ample keyboards/orchestrations and dramatic arrangements. Pulling off this big sound live is going to require a small army of touring members, but sadly that’s probably not something these guys will have to worry about for a good while.
Thankfully, the pair seem to know where to draw the line between grandiosity and cheese, and the songs rarely feel overblown, even if they average about six minutes. The mournful jazzy section in “The Next Apocalypse” seems rather odd, but for the most part theatrically doesn’t get in the way or draw much undue attention here.
Though his vocals mostly consist of shades of grizzly-bear roar on Maelstrom, Takács offers some pretty effective mid-range cleans, notably on “Mesmerized In Asphyxiated Delight,” that could perhaps have been employed a bit more often. The anguished moans on “Under The Lunar Blaze” aren’t nearly as resonant, especially when contrasted by his full growl when the song takes a sudden sprint.
Overall, I’d say better late than never for Anguish Sublime here. And while not the most opportune window to finally drop a full album, its certainly a worthy effort – and a testament to the unending patience and undeniable passion of Crnobrnja and Takács. Hopefully, as people get wind of Maelstrom Imperium, that patience will be rewarded.