Seraph in Travail – A Black Death Incense
Release Date: 19/03/2021
Running Time: 47:33
Review by Steven Hooke
There seems to be an almost routine arrangement these days for the world of symphonic extreme metal to conjure up a beacon of commercializable light, in an otherwise twisted and nefarious world of darkness. From Emperor, came Dimmu Borgir, into Cradle of Filth, into Children of Bodom, Septicflesh, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Make Them Suffer, and now potentially looking to throw their hat into the mix is Philadelphia-based symphonic death metal bruisers Seraph in Travail.
Solidifying a stable line-up following their 2015 debut “Bring Forth Death”, Seraph in Travail spike and florette orchestral accompaniments with rattling death metal in a way perfected by the previously-mentioned Cradle of Filth. Often feeling like they are separating songs internally, as if they are classical movements, there’s a resultant and wonderful gothic energy about “A Black Death Incense” – imagine Phantom of the Opera except The Phantom is actually Freddy Krueger.
A key component in the angry goth vibes is the versatility of vocalist Jonathan Sutherland. Possessing a debilitating range that is at times Trevor Strnad and at times Ville Vaio is already an impressive feat, but the transitions and timings for this singing styles gives his overall performance that extra something. Vocally reflecting the movement-like songwriting, Sutherland’s smooth changes, from a guttural snarl to a shrill cry, to a baritone croon blends incredibly well with the music, with no better example coming from the absolute belter ‘My Bitter End’. The latter stages of the song’s chorus see Sutherland begin a line with clean vocals, and as he progresses through the lyrics, he evolves into a fierce battlecry with zero wavering in the delivery.
But by no means is this a one-man show. It’s a modern death metal trade-off between guitarist Dan Shegue and session (and founding) guitarist Joe Bonner trading bombs throughout, working in near-perfect synergy with drummer Mike Shaw to ensure no wasted motion or respite for the listener. In tracks where all the collective shit hits the fan, such as ‘When They Crown You Queen’ and ‘The Apostate Coil’, all three take turns at constructing the most crushing, intense lick of the track.
An incredible production job rounds off the album. Every beat, every note, every moment that makes you think “ah, I see death has found me” is delivered with pristine clarity; nothing feels sacrificed for a different layer in the mix, resulting in a fluid dynamic between metal and orchestration.
“A Black Death Incense” feels like an essential listen for anyone who likes their metal with a layer of theatrics. Plenty of classical pomp and circumstance that never compromises on heaviness, a worthy contender to the symphonic extreme metal crown.
‘For The Wrath Of Dying Days’ (Audio)
01. Fixed And Dilated
02. My Bitter End
03. When They Crown You Queen
04. In Hemorrhagic Hues
05. Dead Scream Kill
06. For the Wrath of Dying Days
07. The Apostate Coil
08. Across Bloody Waters
Jonathan Sutherland – Vocals/Bass
Dan Shegue – Guitars
Mike Shaw – Drums
Joe Bonner – (Session Guitars)
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