Review by Fernando on May 17, 2020.
Sojourner is an international epic black metal project that has recently been getting a lot of buzz on the back of their first 2 albums and their two singers, Emilio Crespo and Chloe Bray. In 2020 they return with their third LP Premonitions, released via Napalm Records.
Sojourner has been catching a lot of people's attention with their brand of atmospheric black metal with tinges of what many describe as "epic metal". Often found in subgenres like doom metal (that style in particular leans heavily on big and slow riffs), power metal and the obvious, Bathory inspired Viking metal. This mix of atmosphere and grandiosity made Sojourner known and it has served them very well, particularly in their sophomore release The Shadowed Road. Now that they're playing in the big leagues by signing to Napalm Records, for their third opus the band has decided to continue refining their style and taking full advantage of a more polished production. However, while the band continues showing off their skills in this particular style and doing a good job at being a solid entry level band into black metal, in my opinion they seemed to have succumbed to the dreaded "sophomore slump" on their third album.
The first major issue with this album is that the cleaner production and much bigger emphasis on the "epic" atmosphere, i.e. the band wanting the music to sound more operatic and grander, feels overworked and even gaudy in places. The album's opener 'The Monolith' gives some early 2000's vibes of Gothic metal akin to Nightwish, and not in a favorable way. The other problem is that, while this band became known for heavily leaning on the atmospherics, in here they seem to double down on it. I personally really enjoy long and elaborated songs, hell, black metal thrives and is characterized for being atmospheric, but in here, because of the emphasis on the atmosphere being so symphonic and orchestrated, instead of the music washing over me and lulling me into a sense of tranquility, I often found myself just watching the runtime. When there was a song with more energy and punch like 'The Apocalyptic Theater' (which is this album's best song), I felt wanting the band to do more of this than the protracted songs on the rest of the album that sound more like symphonic black metal than atmospheric black metal, as the music is too flowery and operatic - which doesn't have a place for the darkness of black metal. Using fantasy RPG's as a comparison, this band went from Dark Souls to World of Warcraft.
Finally, for a band that does classify as "epic atmospheric black metal", the music sounds very cheesy and overwrought in places. This is mostly because of the cleaner and more professional production - and I will clarify that from a technical and instrumental standpoint the band DOES shine. The performances are top notch and when they succeed in their music sounding cinematic - they soar; however, the album tends to go on these long stretches to create an atmosphere, but it ends up feeling more bloated than grand. In my opinion, this album feels like a retrogression on the band's part, in the sense that now that they have the backing of a bigger label and access to better production, they sought to give themselves a rebirth of sorts. They closed the book on their first era (their first 2 albums) and tried to have a new beginning, and while they do shine in several places, it seems that their ambitions were just too much and went overboard.
Overall, while Sojourner have still the potential and novelty to push on and make a name for themselves, this album is the band trying to prove themselves in a new field - but unfortunately going through a lot of trial and error that they didn't face when they first began. Not a bad album and certainly not without real talent and passion, but a mixed bag in my opinion. Hopefully the band will succeed in ironing out their shortcomings for their next album.
Best songs: 'The Apocalyptic Theater', 'Fatal Frame', 'The Deluge'
Rating: 5.9 out of 10161