Vanum- Realm of Sacrifice

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Saturday, August 15, 2015

Realm of Sacrifice may be Vanum’s debut album, but the duo aren’t newcomers to U.S. black metal. The two have been a part of bands like Ash Borer, Vorde, Fell Voices, and Predatory Light, all of which have released some fantastic material over the past few years. Compared to their other projects, Vanum skews a bit more towards the traditional side of black metal with that familiar icy chill to its guitar leads but the ideas are stretched out to create a thick atmosphere. It took me a few times through to fully warm up to this album and take everything in that it had to offer, but once it clicked Realm of Sacrifice has been on regular rotation and another worthy addition to your collection from two musicians that show no signs of slowing down.

Like the other groups that this duo play in, the songs here skew towards the longer side with all but one running past the ten minute mark. Vanum makes the most of this lengthier span of time, allowing their instrumentation to spread out naturally and build to some stunning climaxes. Initially it sounds as though the majority of their ideas might be sticking firmly to the second wave genre sound, with opener “Realm of Ascension” channeling that same chilling tonality and abrasive instrumentation after a short intro. But the band merely uses this as a base to build off of rather than sticking to closely to the formula like so many others, as passages filled with haunting and atmospheric leads are interwoven into these rawer sections to create arrangements that have their fair share of twists and turns. It did take me a few times through to fully get a feel for, as even though Realm of Sacrifice has a slightly more direct approach to songwriting with plenty of all-out blasting the nuances didn’t fully sink in right away. But once it did this one hasn’t left my stereo, and the third track “Convergence” continues to be the best example of just how much power and jaw dropping atmosphere the band can truly offer with its soaring leads that expand in a way that takes the listener on an aural journey each time through.

The vocals tend to come in waves throughout Realm of Sacrifice, giving the instrumentals plenty of space to steal the spotlight and build. But when they do come in the intensity jumps up considerably as the lower pitched screaming cuts through the thicker atmosphere and sheer wall of sound, perfectly complementing everything that is happening throughout each of the songs on the album. While some of the other groups these two play in have chosen to bury their vocals in the production and let them lurk beneath the surface, Vanum has gone in a different direction and put plenty of space between the different elements. When the vocals are working in tandem with the instrumentation to push the wall of sound to its absolute peak level the material completely overwhelms you, and that’s exactly what black metal of this type should do.

Vanum utilizes the type of colder instrumentation and directness that recalls a number of European black metal bands rather than the atmospheric variations from this duo’s other musical endeavors, and while the approach made it take a little bit longer for me to fully latch on to what Realm of Sacrifice had to offer the time was certainly well spent. That first time through is likely to feel familiar, but upon subsequent listens the soaring melodies and abrasive edges start to sink in and the songwriting reveals itself to have some real staying power. There is still room for these two to further branch out and further differentiate themselves, but if they keep hitting stunning climaxes like on “Convergence” I think listeners will have even more to look forward to.

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