November 2021 Feature Release – The North Edition

First Post October 31, 2021 07:54 PM

So just like that we find that a new month is upon us which of course means that we’ll be nominating a brand new monthly feature release for each clan. This essentially means that we’re asking you to rate, review & discuss our chosen features for no other reason than because we enjoy the process & banter. We’re really looking forward to hearing your thoughts on our chosen releases so don’t be shy.

This month’s feature release for The North has been nominated by Ben. It's 2009's sole album "Skullreader" from Swiss atmospheric black metal outfit Sun Of The Blind.

November 13, 2021 09:23 AM

Yeah I can see why you like this one-off solo project from Darkspace guitarist Zhaaral Ben. It's five lengthy tracks are melodic, majestic & possess genuine atmosphere. It's not without its flaws mind you. The programmed drums sound a bit sluggish at times & there are some melodic intervals used that have a tendency to sound a touch sickly (perhaps intentionally). A few of these lengthy tracks also take a bit of time to get going but it's definitely worth the investment because when Zhaaral hits his straps he's capable of transporting you to some pretty imposing locations. There are no weak tracks included & I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

For fans of Darkspace, Lurker Of Chalice & Almyrkvi.


November 16, 2021 11:02 AM

This is growing on me.  First listen left me cold (and not in a kvlt bm way) and I thought it a bit boring.  It is better than I first thought but not ready to jump in with a review yet.  I find it a bit too melodic overall and this is more memorable than the atmospheric aspects of the record for me.

More to follow.

November 18, 2021 03:45 AM

You know, on first glance, I would have mostly echoed Daniel's critique about the record having some piss poor electronic percussion, and lengthy tracks that take time to become fully engaged. But as I progressed further, I thought that maybe this isn't quite the negative that I initially thought. For one, the buzzy guitars are not that far removed from Filosofem's best moments, and the album's slower tempos that is entirely absent of throttling percussion, huge guitar chords and kvlt vocal howls seem to be a logical fit. Throughout the space left behind it sounds like the ambience of a Burzum or to a lesser extent, Akhlys. The production of the guitar meant to sound like a synthesizer is all Sun of the Blind needs to go full throttle into processed percussion.

The bookend's of this album take their time to get moving and as a result, run longer than they should. While the punch of the percussion is muted, it is picked up by the bass. Although I will say this album does have a mixing problem in which the record starts quite flimsy with "Cursed Universe" and "Lord of Mind", but by the time you reach "Ornaments" and "Vanitas" the grit becomes more pronounced and more enjoyable. Some sticky riffs in the middle are what push this record over the edge from good to great. Maybe a little same-y at times, but a unique experience on its own.


November 19, 2021 02:50 PM

Darkspace member's solo output is arguably more than covered off in terms of quality by Wintherr with his Paysage d'Hiver releases. With a lot of that discography still to discover it was on my mind to park listening to Zhaaral's single album under his Sun of The Blind logo until I had fully explored his bandmate's much more vast list of releases (the first of which will arrive on vinyl this weekend as it happens). As I alluded to in the forum thread, Skullreader is a grower needing more than a cursory listen to fully appreciate what it delivers.

Despite me having spent numerous hours with it, I am still not overly in love with it. If anything I find it to be great background music, which is hardly glowing praise and does sound unfair when it is obvious that there is lots of evidence of talent on this record. This a very lush and melodic experience overall and not one that relies too much on just swooshing atmospherics to set the scene. The repetition on the record breeds an assuring familiarity as it plays but at the same time makes it impossible to maintain the focus solely upon just the music. It does need more atmosphere though as it is far too warm sounding (without being Hellenic) as a result of the lush and rich melodies. Whilst I cannot fault the effort and the means behind it, I have to conclude that the delivery is off, resulting in an album that seems to just pass me by as opposed to give much in the way of snapping my attention onto it for just over forty minutes.

Zhaaral is really a victim of his bandmates success as I have heard very similar ideas done much better by Wintherr (consistently so over the cross-section of the discography I have heard) and as a result I can't help but feel Skullreader just to be an attempt to get something off Zhaaral's chest that he himself was probably over quite quickly - hence the one release only. It isn't a bad album but it just gets a bit dreary the more you try to chip away at it to glean some sense of excitement and direction.


The Fallen The Horde The North The Pit
November 22, 2021 01:23 AM

I'm not surprised that the feedback for this release has been a bit mixed. I know that it has some production issues, and I can't deny that the tracks begin to bleed into each other.

But this is an album I find myself going back to again and again. There's a majestic, vortex swirling beauty to it that really got its claws into me and its refused to let go. Each time I listen to it I find my enjoyment increasing, so I totally agree with Vinny that Skullreader is a grower.

Anyway, it's an album I don't hear mentioned very often (if at all!), so figured making it a feature release would at least give a few passionate metal fans the chance to experience it. :yum:

November 24, 2021 03:11 PM

I'm really glad Ben suggested this as a monthly feature as I'm sure I may never have stumbled across it otherwise. It is absolutely the case that this is a grower rather than being the type of album that grabs you by the throat from the off and I enjoy those sort of albums hugely as they seem to offer something new upon every listen. Anyway here's my review:

To be honest upon first listen at the start of the month I wasn't especially impressed with Skullreader. However, each time I've returned to it it has dug it's claws deeper into me and now I think it has finally "clicked". To be sure it isn't an "immediate" listen and it certainly doesn't grab you like Zhaaral's Darkspace bandmate, Wintherr's Paysage d'Hiver work does (and in truth it isn't really on the same level as Paysage d'Hiver, but then again, not a lot is).

Anyway, back to the release on hand and what Zhaaral has served up is a hybrid of melodic and atmospheric black metal with some occasional, brief post-metal-ly sections. There is a fair predominance of keyboards present, but they aren't at all overbearing or cloying and are very tastefully incorporated into the overall sound. I have seen the album compared to Blut Aus Nord and that is a fitting comparison I feel, especially when compared to the Memoria Vetusta series (although, again, it isn't on the same level of accomplishment). The layers of guitar and synth build an all-enveloping ambience that does allow for some nice mental pictures to flow. Lord of Mind, for example, with it's slower pacing feels like a journey through a huge abandoned alien city.

I initialy disliked the fact that the vocals are buried in the mix, but have actually grown to enjoy that aspect, as the fact that you have to strain a little to hear them properly makes it feel like a voice is reaching out between dimensions or across the veil between life and death to impart some profound insight. This is not merely an album built on atmosphere though, it also has some quite cool riffs, Fire and Thirst for example, which also has some nice Middle-Eastern influenced guitar work and Vanitas whose main riff sounds imperious.

Overall a very good album, albeit one that takes a bit to get into, but one that is worth persevering with. May not ultimately stack up against his more celebrated colleague's back catalogue, or his original band's output, but I would have welcomed hearing further releases from this project to see where they may have led. As it stands however, Sun of the Blind is a one-shot deal so presumably Zharaal has scratched whatever creative itch he may have been feeling within Darkspace, for now at least.