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Vitriolic Sage - 梦路 review

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Band: Vitriolic Sage
Album: 梦路
Release date: March 2023

01. 梦祭
02. Enfance En Fange
03. Réminiscence IV
04. 梦乡
05. 梦的角落

Vitriolic Sage's third album proves that modern black metal is alive and well, as beautiful lead guitar melodies and furious drumming collide in these five songs of visceral sorrow. The Dream Road awaits.

Only a few months ago, a fellow Metal Storm reviewer covered the dissonant black metal album of a Chinese one-man project called Ὁπλίτης. Now, that same musician (known by the initials J.L.) is back with another album — this time under the moniker Vitriolic Sage. This release, titled 梦路 or Dream Road, also includes black metal that could generally be classified as dissonant. Yet, in my opinion, one can find here some clear improvements in comparison to the style used on Ὁπλίτης's album. With four out of five songs having runtimes of over eight minutes, 梦路 focuses on establishing grand, emotionally resonant atmospheres, whereas Ὁπλίτης used almost exclusively incessant, rapid-fire dissonance.

These emotions are made palpable through the desperate, raspy cries of the vocalist and the sombre wailing of the lead guitar. In 梦路 and the two previous albums under the Vitriolic Sage name, the accompanying melodic lead guitar-work supplies the music with direction and purpose, guiding the listener along a path of grief and anguish with every ear-piercing and heart-rending riff. Placing these clear, sharp melodies atop the groovy, tremolo-picked rhythm guitar background adds a very entertaining dynamic that keeps the listener at the edge of their seat and ensures that one is never overwhelmed by the more raucous elements.

One more key ingredient that particularly stood out for me is the excellent drumming. I admit that I'm often so mesmerized by great guitar playing that I fail to appreciate the talent showcased by the drummer. In this case, the percussion is so complex, multi-faceted, and catchy that it constantly competes with the guitar-work for my attention. Lastly, some eerie bass playing makes small appearances at the end of the first track and halfway through the fourth track, smoothly juxtaposing the mad ramblings of the vocalist. As was mentioned in the Ὁπλίτης review, the inclusion of more bass could benefit the album, although it isn't really necessary with all the other fascinating musicianship already succeeding in keeping the listener hooked.

If all that instrumentation by one individual wasn't impressive enough, our dear mysterious J.L. seems to be a polylinguist as well. While the Ὁπλίτης album was entirely in Greek, 梦路 offers lyrics in Mandarin Chinese, French, old Tibetan, and Gyalrongic languages. The recurring themes on the album are about dreams and sorrow. Besides the album title, three of the song titles explicitly contain the word "dream": 梦祭 ("Dream Festival"), 梦乡 ("Dream Land"), and 梦的角落 ("Corner of Dreams"). The lyrics are difficult to interpret (not just because of the language barrier), but one can clearly sense feelings of despair and loss with every uttered word. To match the image of a crying face on the cover art, there are audio samples of a weeping woman in several of the songs. While shorter instances of the crying woman add a sombre layer to accompany additional sounds of birdsong and traditional chime bells on the final track, the full one minute of uninterrupted, annoying crying at the end of the second track really kills the vibe and should be skipped by all listeners who value the well-being of their ears. We metalheads want our eardrums shattered by metal and nothing else, after all!

Overall, 梦路 is a black metal album of the highest calibre. Exquisite guitar melodies contrast anguished screams and high-speed drumming in dynamic and engaging songs. With variation in sharp, thrashy riffing, melancholic melodies, and serene ambience, Vitriolic Sage blends elements of dissonant, depressive, and post-black styles to fashion an unforgettable musical experience of dreams and despair.

Written on 18.03.2023 by The sign of good music is the ability to both convey and trigger emotion.


Comments: 3   Visited by: 74 users
18.03.2023 - 18:44
I think it's pretty clear why the two projects are separate entities, each having a different nuance of black metal. Not sure which of the two I prefer, but I'll be on the lookout for more J.L.
Do you think if the heart keeps on shrinking
One day there will be no heart at all?
18.03.2023 - 18:53
Rating: 8
Tropical Goat
I like this album, their melodies are really nice. I don't know why I didn't listen to Ὁπλίτης but I will do it right now.
18.03.2023 - 19:32
Rating: 8

I did not believe the one-minute sample of a woman crying would be that bad.

Until I heard it. The album rocks, though!
So imminently visible - this cloaked innocent guilt
Sentenced to a lifetime, a second of structured chaos
Trampled by the ferocious, raging crowds of solitude
I'm the soil beneath me soaking up the sustenance of my own death.

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