Review: Suldusk ‘Anthesis’

Back before the world shut down, I became aware of the artist Suldusk. Compelled to purchase the debut album Lunar Falls when it surfaced in 2019 after hearing a few snippets, I was richly rewarded with an album unlike anything I had been listening to up to that point.

Such was my interest that when the opportunity to review the follow-up, I jumped at the chance, in part to hear the new album and equally because I just love this band.

Suldusk 'Anthesis' Artwork
Suldusk ‘Anthesis’ Artwork

For those who are unaware of Suldusk, they began life as a solo project for Emily Highfield back in 2017, and since then it has seen the band evolve, and expand, to the point where there are now six members, and a couple of additional artists, who feature on the new album, Anthesis, making it no longer a solo affair.

This makes for a very textured soundtrack indeed, and both albums can flit from a serene ambience one moment, to blast beats and screeched vocals without a second’s notice.

As for the album itself, it’s nine tracks dripping with a heady mix of dark folk and blackgaze, and although it comes in at around forty-five minutes, it feels vastly longer. It organically plays through, and for all the intensity, and at times ferocious outpourings, it never feels like there has been a rush to complete the tracks, they end on their own steam, and the musicians are merely there as puppets in the experience.

Opening in a very unassuming manner with Astraeus, it serves to welcome the opus, but in doing so gives the suggestion that this may well be an ethereal and light album, before allowing track two, Verdalet, the opportunity to wash in and completely eradicate any notions that this will be anything but a savage maundering aurally.

Verdalet displays, in no uncertain manner, just what a beast this band truly is. Right from its inception, it is a battering of blast beat drumming and insane guitar wailing. Vocally it sways between clean, soft and venomous guttural screeching in equal measure, which given the nature of the instrumentation, is jarring to hear, such is its purpose. I think if I had to define it, I would say it’s vampiric, as that is what I conjure up in my imagination every time I hear it.

Unique, unparalleled, and visceral, this will stay with you long after the album ends…

By contrast, Crowns Of Esper shows another side of the band. It’s far lighter, and with the use of acoustic guitars and soft drums to complement Emily‘s vocals, it’s a completely different vibe indeed. And that’s what this whole album is, the parallel of lights and darks. The ying to the yang, and the juxtaposition of both.

For me, this is especially evident on the track Crystalline. After a soft ambient start all hell breaks loose, and it is swiftly replaced with heavy drums and demonic guitar. As it plays through, this dynamic continues, the serene lighter moments embrace the darker, more imposing sections.

This concept truly takes hold by the midway point of the album, and each new track is either a lavish warm embrace of acoustics and harmonies, or abrasive and visceral in its approach.

The sixth and title track Anthesis incorporates both sides of the coin, and really does showcase these factors to maximum devastation. It’s here where the real artistry of the band, and scope, are at their most vibrant.

By track eight, Leven, there are still some surprises which is refreshing to hear. After a softer, serene introduction, the inclusion of a male vocal to the harmonised female dynamic reverts to a moodier, darker tone, but the inclusion of multiple clean vocals really does warm things up in the soul for sure.

A Luminous End closes the album, and I don’t think a better track could have been chosen to round things off. This time there is an added little bonus, and that is the inclusion of Canadian cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne, who masterfully shows just why he is so revered in the music community, and through the course of its seven minutes, truly displays what an exceptional artist he is.

For me, A Luminous End is the highlight of the entire album. It is opulent and vibrant, hard, abrasive and visceral, yet at the same time cathartic, without being too melancholy. It has an overwhelming passion which is hard to escape, and at its climax, it will leave you breathless, before drifting off to its conclusion as the music washes away.

With a work such as this, coming away from it after a single listen wouldn’t do it any justice, and I recommend multiple listens to truly embrace it. Unique, unparalleled, and visceral, this will stay with you long after the album ends.

Label: Napalm Records
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Spotify | Instagram

Scribed by: Lee Beamish