Vanum, Realm of Sacrifice, Profound Lore Records, CD PFL-153 (2015)
In an earlier era, Vanum would have been regarded with some awe as a super-group – and perhaps there are fans of the two members’ regular bands Ash Borer, Fell Voices and Vorde who might come to the same conclusion. Vanum appears to be the first project that Kyle Morgan (Ash Borer, Predatory Light) and Michael Rekevics (Fell Voices, Vorde, Vilkacis, plus a few more besides) have collaborated on, though their careers with their other bands have been intertwined in the past.
Compared with Ash Borer and Fell Voices, both atmospheric BM acts emphasising very flowing minimal BM on those albums of theirs (“Cold of Ages” and “Regnum Saturni” respectively) that I’ve heard, Vanum’s debut hews closely to a more conventionally melodic and melancholy style of black metal. Atmosphere is not very much in evidence throughout the album and the stress is on rapid-fire tremolo guitar riffing and melodies leading the way while percussion keeps time at a not especially fast pace. The band’s sound is rough and rusty enough for a chainsaw effect. Vocals are not always clear and are often buried pretty deeply within the music; fortunately the digipak comes with printed lyrics which detail personal and perhaps societal struggle, transcendence and breakthrough to greater, deeper spiritual knowledge and understanding.
For the most part the music is epic and rousing with much passion and energy. The two musicians are very much in control of their creation (which does mean there’s not much spontaneity) and direct it with confidence and flair. Each track charges on with single-minded determination and intensity. Melodies are not very distinctive and songs perhaps should be treated as linked chapters in an over-arching work, though they can work well enough on their own. The dominant emotion across the music seems to be longing for something, although the lyrics might suggest otherwise. One track in the middle “In Immaterial Flame” has repeating folk-like riffs that might remind listeners of Ukrainian folk BM band Drudkh.
For a supergroup debut, Vanum have established a solid and quite enjoyable base. At present the band seems content to stick to a straightforward style of epic and aggressive melodic BM in contrast to the musicians’ other projects.