Review by Vinny for Sear Bliss - The Arcane Odyssey (2007)
Following the feature in The North clan that featured their 2004 offering (Glory and Perdition), I picked up on Sear Bliss' follow up release after a track got featured on a clan playlist in the last couple of months. As with their previous offering, The Arcane Odyssey immediately sang to me as a furthering of the refreshing take on melodic black metal that Sear Bliss have. This release makes solid and consistent use of horns again - in fact I suspect there is more of them this time around - again never allowing them to dominate proceedings, still letting them swell in the space behind the rest of the instrumentation and never once leaving any hint of a doubt that you are listening to a black metal record in the first instance.
I do not often find myself enjoying back to back releases from artists and so Sear Bliss already find themselves in an elite club in my standings after just two albums. The balance they achieve in their songs is astonishing, retaining an aggressive edge but the main takeaway are the rich and illustrious melodies that fill every track with a subtle grandiosity that shows a band in control of their own destiny, set on a path of their own choosing and revelling in the glory that they create as a tight and cohesive unit. Tracks do not always follow a conventional format and even when you think they have ended they can continue down a different and unexpected path.
The same vibes jump out at me on this record as I got with their previous release. The borderline cosmic elements of Darkspace, the whooshing melodicism of Drudkh and the atmospheric elements of latter day Negura Bunget. There is also a retention of that brooding Mayhem mood sitting here as well. It is as if Sear Bliss possess a lot more threat than you may take in upon first listen and they are happy to leave that teaser in the background to keep the listener on their toes. Second track A Deathly Illusion deploys this near black 'n roll rhythm alongside those ever familiar horns to the point where the riffs began to hint at being just a bit seedy and dirty, giving a sense that the sleeves can get rolled up when needed in Sear Bliss.
This time around there are no interludes (an aspect that I had no issue with - for once - on Glory and Perdition) and this is a definite positive for the album. This record flows really well, taking little risks along the way and simply working with their established sound. It is not a safe record by any means though and still is unrepentant in its use of brass instrumentation and cleaner musical passages to cast ethereal atmospheres. The lead work here would not be out of place on a traditional doom metal record and there are times when the record takes on such a pace to match as well. Overall though, The Arcane Odyssey is a triumph of consistent song writing and textured layering of the elements contained therein. This band are one of my favourite Metal Academy discoveries of 2022.