|If Surtr hasn't changed a lot, musically speaking, this sophomore still sounds way better than the debut.|
|According to Amon Amarth, Surtur was rising in 2011. Something we already knew in the Doom scene, since it's the same year that a French trio bearing the name of the same Fire Giant also released their debut album - however, this rising was less impressive than the one coming from the notorious Vikings' side. Two years have passed since 'World Of Doom' was released, and the French band spent this time touring a lot, rehearsing even more and trying to make a second album worthy of the mythical being to which they owe their moniker.
Surtr hasn't changed a lot, musically speaking. It's still some classic Doom inspired by the elders (namely Saint-Vitus and Count Raven). The choice of not going with a concept album this time seems to have helped the band a lot when it comes to crafting some real songs (and not what sounds like a way-too-long track badly divided into smaller parts). The main change lies in the voice of guitarist/singer Jeff Maurer, who has finally found how to place his voice. Whilst not the most melodic of vocalists, he still manages to bring a bit of depth to the music. He also sometimes uses Black Metal-style vocals and Death Metal grunts, betraying his past as the main singer in various non-Doom related bands. While the vocals sometimes sound more spoken than sung, it's never a problem as that helps with setting the right mood .
The riffs are quite good and rocking, but they are still lacking a bit of 'crunch' in the slower parts. This makes the band sound a bit ritualistic at times, but I don't see it as a flaw for the overall listening pleasure: it even makes some choruses stand out (like the one on 'Rebellion' and 'Rise Again'). The idea of including keyboard is good: it adds to the gloomy atmosphere (albeit being a bit too much in the background, sometimes). As for the rhythm section, it does hammer your head like it's expected to. This is some very classic Traditional Doom: nothing you haven't heard before and better-done elsewhere, but still, it is a real step forward for the French band. Most importantly, 'Pulvis Et Umbra' sounds like a genuine first album and not like a demo released too quickly (as was the case with 'World Of Doom'). Not everything is perfect here (one can point to the blatant lack of personality typical of young bands), but everything is done well enough to quench the thirst of any Trad' fan in need of a new dose of lead-heavy riffs. Right now, Surtr is far from being counted amongst the French leaders in this style, but they progress quickly and they might finally manage to reap what they've sown if they continue this way.
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1. Rise Again
2. Three Winters Of War
3. Sonic Doom
4. The Call
6. I Am The Cross
7. Fred Karno's Army
Duration : Approx. 41 minutes
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