Fans of epic metal will find something to sink their teeth into

Norwegian/American entity The Sabbathian released their debut Ritual Rites in 2014. If the name suggests their genre, it’d be doom.

This was the case for Ritual Rites. For Latum Alterum, vocalist Anette Uvaas Gulbrandsen and multi-instrumentalist Chad Davis (of Hour of Thirteen, and many others) have decided to alter their focus, incorporating elements from heavy metal and black metal, albeit retaining their signature atmospheres. How does the album fare with these changes?

‘Requiem… (Intro)’ kicks things off with brief ambience, featuring some beautifully intoned vocals from Anette; an interesting prelude to the sounds that will follow. ‘The Brightest Light’ is the first full-length track,  a superb statement of intent. The listener is soon greeted with a warm, analogue-sounding black metal riff, over which Anette’s vocals soar. The shift in style is readily apparent and stark. Yet at the same time, Chad Davis’ compositional signature is instantly recognisable, bearing traces of the foundations that laid Ritual Rites, even if the sound strays from the traditional doom found on that release. The skilful use of backing vocals and sparse lead guitar accentuate this track.

‘Liti Kjersti’ leans a little closer to a ‘traditional’ black metal track in structure, albeit with Anette’s clean vocals resonating from above. Her vocals remind me a little of Ronnie James Dio, and this track is a fine example of the versatility that she possesses, easily complementing the immense atmospheres conjured by Chad’s riffs.

The nearly ten minute long ‘Head of a Traitor’ begins with some foreboding guitar lines from Chad, and features guest vocals from Liv Kristine (Midnattsol, ex-Leaves Eyes), in tandem with Anette. This is also the track that (in this reviewer’s opinion) bears the most similarity to Ritual Rites, so Liv’s lighter vocal approach provides both a contrast to Anette’s vocals, and sets the track further apart from The Sabbathian’s beginnings. The contrast in vocals and some well-placed lead guitar from Chad help this track belie its length.  

‘One Night of Cruelty’ takes no prisoners, reminiscent of late 1980s Bathory in its relentless stomp. Anette’s vocal melodies are particularly catchy, giving this one an almost throwback atmosphere to a time when everything emerging from the extreme metal scene was raw and honest. The music fades out as Anette’s vocals see the track to its conclusion.

‘Embrace the Dark’ again almost draws comparisons to Ritual Rites, albeit with the black metal-centric guitar approach. Gloriously analogue once more, it’s an altogether heavier excursion. Anette’s vocals give Chad’s muscular riffs some additional gravitas as the song hits its climax amid some spoken vocals and fine guitar work.   

‘Evig Hvile / Libera me… (Outro)’ hearkens back to that late 80s black metal sound at the onset, but gradually adopts a layered ‘epic’ approach, achieving this through the use of multilayered vocals and some evocative guitar harmonies. ‘Evig Hvile’ soon gives way to the outro ‘Libera me…’ as the album concludes. It’s a fine way to end the album, but in itself I find a minor drawback, the ‘Evig Hvile’ portion almost feels like it ends too soon. Perhaps that is intentional, the combined forces of The Sabbathian mean to leave us wanting more.

With Latum Alterum,  The Sabbathian take on a stylistic shift, largely abandoning their doom trappings for an approach taking heightened influences from the likes of Bathory and Candlemass. A calculated risk that  paid off. They did not totally abandon the foundations laid by Ritual Rites but I applaud them for taking such an approach befitting their matured musical partnership. There’s a lot to find enjoyable about Latum Alterum, devotees of black metal, doom, and epic heavy metal will find something to sink their teeth into.

  1. Requiem… (Intro)
  2. The Brightest Light
  3. Liti Kjersti
  4. Head of a Traitor
  5. One Night of Cruelty
  6. Embrace the Dark
  7. Evig Hvile/Libera me… (Outro)