Album: The Storm Within
Label: Prophecy Productions
Genre: Gothic doom, Melodic doom/death
Release Date: June 16th, 2023
For Fans Of: My Dying Bride, Novembers Doom, Draconian
This review is going to need some context. Danish doom legends Saturnus are my favorite doom band, easily in my top 5 favorite bands period. Their bulletproof discography, highlighted by their 2006 masterpiece Veronika Decides to Die, are cult classics in the doom world and deeply personal albums for me. Saturnus has been the soundtrack of my sadness for years now, as countless nights I’ve shed tears listening to their albums. At my lowest point Saturnus was there for me, helping me process those painful feelings I couldn’t understand. We’ve been through hell and back together, and like the scars of a distant past they’ve become an integral part of who I am.
A full 11 years since their last album Saturn in Ascension, the boys are back with fresh faces and most importantly, new music. Since then, they’ve added Mika Filborne on keys, Indee Rehal-Sagoo (ex-Clouds, Eye of Solitude) on lead guitar, and Julio Fernandez (Autumnal) on rhythm guitar. Fair warning, my fanboy goggles won’t be budging for this review, I love Saturnus with all my heart and I plan to fawn over this record for at least a few more paragraphs.
Saturnus’ careful compositions exude the full spectrum of sadness with every album; the band expresses deep melancholy, sorrow, grief, depression, mourning, and despair, but also longing, loneliness, heartbreak, emptiness, introspection, frustration, and everything in between. They manage to nail a feeling that few bands can replicate: the bittersweet, dulled pain of acceptance. This light, subtly uplifting tone appears in the airy “Chasing Ghosts”, as well as up-tempo gothic sections on tracks “The Calling” and “Breathe New Life”, showing that the band’s emotive capability is as sharp as ever.
Saturnus’ signature sound has always centered around vocalist Thomas A.G. Jensen’s low, guttural bellows. It’s fair to say his vocals are an acquired taste, but to fans of the band, that taste is a key ingredient of this depression cake. His harsh growl is akin to a pained cry of grief, like the gut-wrenching, agonized dry heave you get between uncontrollable sobs. And I wouldn’t trade it for any other sound. It has such a visceral feeling, with an audible human touch as his voice falters, and you can really feel the pain he’s expressing. The impact that Thomas’ growl adds to the heavier sections, and the contrast it strikes with melodic guitar lines, brings something out in me like nothing else. It might be something that turns people off from the band, but that’s their loss.
Thomas’ use of spoken word is also an integral part of the Saturnus sound, taking a pivotal role on the mournful “Even Tide” and the resolute closer “Truth”. Some people hate spoken word in metal, but I’ve always loved his soft speaking voice, and find it contrasts wonderfully with his inhuman growls. The only thing I’d change about his vocal performance is that I miss his mid-pitch gothic bark from the Martyre era, a la tracks like “Empty Handed”, “Noir”, and “Pretend” off Veronika Decides to Die. I think a few moments with that vocal style could have had a fantastic effect on this record.
New guitarists Indee and Julio carry the Saturnus tradition with expert ability, as Indee’s lead guitar work stands out as exceptional on The Storm Within. Saturnus have always been known for their leads, and Indee’s emotive playing exceeds expectation. His melodic writing is outstanding, as each track is packed with fragile sadboi melodies contrasted with beefy doom riffs from Julio. Gorgeous melodic guitar and prominent bass work take center stage on the odyssey “Closing the Circle”, a breathtaking journey packed with sprawling lines and multiple lyrical solos. This track also makes brilliant use of piano motifs in a spine-tingling call-and-response with the guitars. The piano is absolutely beautiful throughout this album, and Mika’s restrained touches are always pinpoint effective, never too much and never too little. Piano flourishes are especially effective on the title track, the aforementioned “Closing the Circle”, and the mournful “Even Tide”, which centers on haunting vocal harmonies from the great Paul Kuhr of Novembers Doom.
Where does this record shake down in terms of their catalogue? I’m not sure, but I can say with confidence that The Storm Within is stronger than Saturn in Ascension, and that record was very strong. Saturnus were never going to revisit the neofolk-influence of Paradise Belongs to You, they were never going to write a tighter gothic record than Martyre or a more cohesive odyssey than Veronika Decides to Die. The funereal musings heard on Saturn in Ascension are largely abbreviated on The Storm Within, creating a smoother product. Despite feeling more segmented than previous outings, there’s a ton to chew on here; each track has plenty of standout moments and the band avoid tedium with the refined quality of their ideas. The Storm Within is absolutely wonderful, and I couldn’t be more stoked to have a new Saturnus record, not to mention one this good. This album was the perfect birthday gift, and I just hope they don’t wait 11 more years for the next one. Also, tour the US please? I’m literally your biggest fan.
- The Storm Within
- Chasing Ghosts
- The Calling
- Even Tide
- Closing the Circle
- Breathe New Life
Total Playing Time: 59:17