The new album contains 20 tracks, and half of the tracklist is divided between instrumental cuts and ambient interludes. While the sophomore has a majestic sense of grandeur the duo shows an impressive modus operandi in tackling the cold melodies, the guitars are powered by scathing tremolo-picked riffs infused with cold icy rhythm. The acoustic intro “Hymns of the Slumbering Race” offers a potent epic effect as it brings the nostalgic grandeur of bands like Dissection where the chilling guitar strings capture the depth of the frozen landscapes. Stormruler seems to have a deep affection for the second wave of black metal. With the following track “Internal Fulmination Of The Grand Deceivers”, the blazing tremolos beckon the listener into an expansive 90’s flamboyance with drums igniting cannons of fire.
The guitars are versatile and textured with catchy lead guitars, acoustic guitars, and melodies working together in melange, the riffs, and lead guitars weaving epic themes, with more emphasis to create an atmospheric and emotional intensity the guitars grasp the aesthetics of bands like Dawn and Unanimated. “To Bear the Twin Faces of the Dragon” shows how Stormruler has expanded its epic scale, the guitars have the faculty of creating multi-layered melodies with a blazing rhythm, thundering drums, and acoustic guitar textures enhancing the sonic scale.
“Entranced within the Moon Presence” is one of the catchiest songs on the album, the exquisite riff work builds layers of well-crafted melodies through the key moments of this track that come from the galloping drums and the raspy vocals. Once the track sets up for a mid-paced tempo, the drums unleash some thundering blast beats. In terms of songwriting Stormruler finds more balance on the sophomore and the guitars are laden with shredded riffs. There is also an amply amount of space given to melodies to shine. The smoldering blaze of the thundering drums erupts on the album’s title track “Sacred Rites & Black Magick” and the guitars inject plenty of straightforward tremolos, albeit the modern twists the production is crystal clear as each instrument sounds powerful.
“Ten Heralds, Ten Desolations” is one of the shortest tracks of the album where Stormruler channels Swedish black metal bands such as Sacramentum, Dark Funeral, and Naglfar. The blazing guitars and drums convey a merciless sonic onslaught. The sophomore stands as a crowning achievement for the duo, they have aptly managed to pull some catchy melodies and created a unique sonic persona. With the remaining tracks of the album, such as “In The Shaded Vlasian Forest” and “Apparitions Across The Ravencrest” infuse the traditions of the Scandinavian blackened death metal, the absolute emphasis on fast-paced tempos and blast beats are filled with a slew of high-pitched vocals and melodic riff craft. Drummer J. Schobel provides a relentless scale of blast beats and double bass while the song has some melodic composition, the latter track expands through the lush soundscapes guitarist/vocalist Jason Asberry delivers frosty melodic passages that are wonderfully executed.
The guitar arrangements give the album a cold and sinister black metal tone, “Sacred Rites & Black Magick” is full of complex rhythms, intricate riffs, and majestic melodies so epic in their scale. “Upon Frozen Shores” showcases the brilliant musicianship in channeling the cold frosty atmosphere of 90’s black metal, the creative range of the lead guitars possesses a true knack of nailing the traditional style of bygone but Stormruler does it with sheer majesty.
The majestic wintry soundscapes on “Along The Appian Way” unfolds some beautiful memorable lead guitar segments intertwined with rhythm and flurries of blast beats, cold icy guitar strings give it a gloomy wintry atmosphere, while the final track “A Malice Dead & Cold” is embedded in heavy galloping rhythm guitars that are epic in its grandeur approach. The guitars weave some unforgettable melodies and they are beautifully encased with the howling vocals and the blistering drums seem firmly entrenched swelling to triumphant and glorious tremolo-picked riffs.
- Music / Songwriting 9/10
- Vocals / Lyrics 9/10
- Mix / Production 10/10
- Artwork & Packaging 10/10
- Originality 9/10
Stormruler’s sophomore is one of the best albums in black metal this year. “Sacred Rites & Black Magick” is a spectacular album so epic and remarkable in its proportions and a strong contender of this year, this is highly recommended for fans of Dissection, Immortal and Dawn.