When we think of big music acts, and where they’re located on the planet, I imagine, you, like me, don’t aim directly at Belgium to lead those lists. There are no Foo Fighters, or Pearl Jam’s to instantly point a finger at, but that doesn’t mean there’s any shortage of talent within the Belgian borders either. To name but a few incredible Belgian bands, I would be amiss if I didn’t mention the incredible Black Mirrors, or Amenra either. The same goes for Spoil Engine and Triggerfinger, all absolutely superb bands, all of whom call Belguim home.
Well, to add to that list, I would like to add the fantastical band Splendidula, who are releasing their phenomenal new album, Somnus, imminently.
Splendidula, for those who have no awareness of them, are a five-piece doom, sludge and post-metal/ band, who hail from Genk, in Belgium. Their brand of otherworldly gothic, and at times face melting viciousness, will leave you breathless, and completely shocked that you haven’t discovered them long before now.
Somnus is the six track, third album for the band, and sees them evolving once again, throwing off the shackles of their previous releases, and thundering forward, remorselessly.
Right from opening track Somnia, until album closer, When God Comes Down, Splendidula take us on a journey into darkness and despair, and everything in between. As I listen through, I pick up on a resemblance to the American powerhouse EMBR, who also expertly combine an ethereal vocal with powerhouse soundtrack, which is thankfully off in a completely different direction to a very large percentage of like-minded, European, female fronted, acts.
Whereas there’s a big emphasis for overblown theatrical lavishness among their peers, the thing that sets Splendidula apart is that the vocal is never too much, its neither tacky or a cliché. What Splendidula do is take the concept of the juxtaposition of the ethereal, mixed with the guttural growls of the male covocal, and weave them together to the right degree, and that, for me, is a breath of fresh air. As a fan of a lot of female fronted bands, the one thing I have no time for is the cat call ridiculousness of a band whose singer can impair what could be an otherwise superb tune, by making all about themselves.
With Splendidula this just isn’t the case, and after listening to Somnus, I would recommend to anyone who isn’t so keen on those sorts of bands to visit Splendidula, and give them your time, you might just surprise yourself. Obviously, the band is far more a savage beast than just their vocalist alone, so, as is the nature of a review, I need to cover the whole package, so here we are.
[Splendidula] take us on a journey into darkness and despair, and everything in between…
As first track Somnia begins, there’s a doomy darkness that takes hold, and refuses to let go. With the mix of sludgy, pounding drums, grungy fuzzy guitars, and Kristien Cools ethereal outpouring, that alone should set the stage for what’s to come. As the track builds, and progresses, it really hits its stride by the final third, and unleashes into an absolute powerhouse of sound.
As it inevitably drops off, it sets the scene for track two, Void, which opens with an industrial doom edge, complete with growling vocal, as though Satan himself were calling to us. The wall of noise is so immense, and with the additional techno sounds running through behind everything, it’s completely engaging.
The beauty of Splendidula is their ability to change things up, never afraid to jump from one extreme to the next, and this is beautifully shown on Incubus. As a more somber introduction rolls out, it’s enchanting, and when this is replaced by the guttural growls, this comes as no surprise. It’s very much a part of Splendidula’s organic DNA, and it’s joyous to hear.
By similarity, Drocht is a dark and dirty, pulsating beast of a track. Again, the ethereal vocal floats over the harshness of the soundtrack, it’s never too much, and is perfect in balance.
When God Comes Down rolls in to close the album, and again, there are surprises in store. Things start gently, a heartbeat pulses, as rolling drums, eloquent guitar work and a heavenly vocal, lull us into believing things will be calmer. This doesn’t last for too long, and is subsequently replaced with chugging guitars and pummeling drums. As Pieter Houben strides in to deliver a truly visceral vocal toward the end, it perfectly finishes the album off, and stamps a firm footprint in the ground, a statement, we are Splendidula, hear us roar.
Truly an incredible work of art of an album, welcome to twenty twenty-one, here be demons, hear our words…
Scribed by: Lee Beamish