May 5, 2020 Sojourner – Premonitions (Album Review)
The Extreme Metal underground experiences its share of trends amidst the ebbs and flows of what is popular. In an effort to be profitable, many record labels take great pains to sign the acts that they feel will best serve them at that moment. This reality is precisely why a band like Sojourner is so refreshing. Formed in 2015, the truly international act already has two quality full-length albums under their belts.
On Friday, May 8th, 2020, album number three will be delivered to the masses via varied, longtime label Napalm Records. Entitled simply Premonitions, Sojourner look to build upon their platform of sturdy, enriching melodic darkness infused with light, a platform which has earned them a solid following. With Premonitions, the all-important third album, can the band take advantage of their momentum here in the third decade of the new millennium?
There is a reason why a melodic female vocalist and a roaring male vocalist were paired together in the ’90s with acts such as Tristania and Theatre of Tragedy. For Chloe Bray and Emilio Crespo, the tandem on the microphone for Sojourner, this duality of light and darkness works quite effectively. The stately church-organ intro of “The Apocalyptic Theater” crescendos only after bringing the tension to a palpable juncture. Strong keyboards accompany the fast-paced number, until Bray’s voice sheds some light onto Crespo’s distinctly ‘Black Metal’ sounding vocal performance. The song winds up exemplifying the pervading melancholy which suffuses Premonitions. Over top of the melody and adding a Folk-inspired dimension to the mix, is the tin whistle (also performed by Chloe Bray).
Echo-laden piano, flute, and the dulcet singing of Bray takes us on an emotional journey on “Talas,” a throwback ballad that dashes a bit of Evanescence with something far more Metal in its bones, such as Tristania. The production hearkens back to the late 1990’s, when bands like Die Verbannten Kinder Evas and Dominion III were recording their obscure and lovely odes to loss and woe. Sojourner tap into and revive these excellent studio values, further ensuring that for all we can go on about it, the one thing journalists will have difficulty with regards to Sojourner will be in classifying them.
The above feeling blends nicely into the thunderous Black Metal-surge of “Fatal Frame,” which nevertheless remains upon the path of sorrow forged in the prior tracks. Premonitions is an album of elegant ferocity, lulling with keys and flutes and punctuated with fluid guitar leads. Crespo’s roar is never far away, as “Fatal Frame” moves between these two moods quite well. A piano solo fades in after the roar fades out, taking the listener on an adventure without ever losing the script.
Slowly building from quiet beginnings, “Eulogy for the Lost” manages to both sadden and uplift, the tin whistle evoking wistful reverie even as the gutted roar of Crespo bruises the beauty with anger. It’s nice to see a band unafraid to drop some piano solos and let them stand alone, in this case bridging them into a piercing guitar lead. These come courtesy of Mike Lamb, riding atop a superb bottom end consisting of Mike Wilson on bass guitar and Riccardo Floridia on drums.
This quite un-formulaic formula is inlaid into each composition on Premonitions. Be it stately opener “The Monolith” or the relaxing plenitude of “Atonement,” Sojourner are erecting monuments to longing through a melding of tin whistle, male and female vocal, mournful soloing (think Agalloch) with a mixture of organ as well as piano worthy of an orchestra hall. The choral vocal backdrop of closing opus “The Event Horizon” ensures no heart is left unstirred, for all that song might have benefited from the type of tempo changes which benefit most of the other compositions on the album. This is a small gripe and does not blemish what is truly a lovely monument to both sadness and strength. Sojourner should be proud of what they have accomplished, and for that Cryptic Rock gives Premonitions 4.5 out of 5 stars.