Runespell – Order of Vengeance Review

Band: Runespell
Album: Order of Vengeance
Label: Iron Bonehead Productions
Genre: Black Metal
Country: Australia
Release Date: July 6th, 2018

The ever expanding genre of black metal continues to take the bold listener to new and terrifying, yet beautiful places. Australia’s Runespell continue to discover these sonic landscapes in a way that feels familiar, but not recycled. This album is a combination of beauty and bloodlust. It seems appropriate to compare it to a battle, not unlike one found in Lord of The Rings or Game of Thrones.

The record starts off on a lengthy note, “Retribution in Iron”. This 10 minute mammoth sets the tone for the album with its brooding ambience and chaotic atmosphere. Throughout the track and the rest of the album, the band is very comfortable within the black metal aesthetics, but not so wrapped up that they are a copy-and-paste version of early 90s black metal bands. There is more of a focus on melody as opposed to dissonance. In the last three minutes of this track, the guitar creates a melodic line that feels borderline heroic in contrast to the harsh, growling vocals. The song still feels dark, but not melancholic. It’s a great way to start this grim adventure.

“Destiny Over Discord” starts with one of the band’s strongest elements: a choir. Now, it’s not like the choir sections in Dimmu Borgir’s Eonian, but more like a Gregorian Chant style; monophonic, low notes, and could belong in an ancient cathedral. This adds to the continued darkness that hovers around this album. Not an evil kind of darkness, but more like of an impending battle knowing that the losses will be high. Speaking of battle, the music seems to go in that direction by the middle of the song, only for it to dissipate and start building the tension again. All the while, there is still an emphasis of melody throughout the song. It doesn’t take away from the tone and it never gets too cheesy, a brilliant use of the tools at hand. The song ends with an incredibly haunting and eerily beautiful orchestral section, almost like it came out of The Lord of The Rings. It is clear these guys know how build a world from many different styles and influences, and they are particularly skilled in applying them.

Speaking of influences, “Claws of Fate” harkens back to 90s black metal the most on this album. If its predecessors were more melodic, then this one is more dissonant. The melody is still there, but this song would not be out of place on an Emperor record. There is more energy and violence on this track, interspersed with halftime sections that allow for a breath of fresh air before dragging you back to the fight. The howling vocals coupled with the thundering double bass drumming and layered with the tremolo-picking guitars make for a grim and intense track.

For me, the highlight of this album is “Night’s Gate”. It is single-handedly the most beautiful and heaviest track on the record. There are no vocals or blast beats, just the unsettling ominous gregorian chant choir and a gloomy, unsettling acoustic guitar. The sonic paintbrush is soaked in blackness, obscuring any light that tries to get through, but it doesn’t suffocate. Instead, it ends leaving you with a sense of reverie and awe, and a longing to go back.

After the bleakness of “Night’s Gate”, “Wolf.Axis” follows it with a hypnotic and mesmerizing performance. The drum groove in the beginning is unique and further adds to the the musicianship presented on this album. Compared to the rest of the album, this track feels almost as if you are floating over the battlefield, surveying the scene and lost in thought. It’s smooth and flows easily into the next track.

“Blood Martyr” continues the album with a sense of determination. Almost like the final push, knowing the end is near, the battle nearly won. A quicker tempo, even the drums seem to hit a little harder on this track.

The final track, “Pray For Redemption” is a ferocious beast. If “Blood Martyr” was more ‘inspirational’ (compared to the other tracks on this album), then this one sucks all hope away and leaves you feeling nothing but dread as if the end of the world is at hand and the enemy is victorious. Only redemption can save you from the inevitable. Not a doom track, but a fast, violent, and terrifying conclusion. Aside from “Night’s Gate”, this is the shortest track, further adding to the feeling that all is lost and nothing can save you.

Runespell have found a way to combine melody with a classic black metal sound. There is a great deal of variety on this record, from vicious and dissonant to elegant and mystical. The band’s strengths lie in their ability to craft a melody and enhance the atmosphere with unique elements such a gregorian chant choir. Hopefully there will be even more in future albums.

Rating: 9/10

Track Listing:
1. Retribution in Iron
2. Destiny Over Discord
3. Claws of Fate
4. Night’s Gate
5. Wolf.Axis
6. Blood Martyr
7. Pray For Redemption

Total Play Time: 46:52

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