As I take my first steps into the emerging frozen landscape the audible crackles from the icy ground emanate into the air, biting winds soar across the terrain while ravens cloaked in darkness spy every movement with their piercing eyes. I’m in Blashrykh and I need something suitably cold, grim, and reminiscent of the 90s to guide me through this inhospitable land. Step in legendary German melodic death metal group Thulcandra who have unleashed their latest album A Dying Wish upon this mortal coil.
Released via Napalm Records, this is the Munich based group’s fourth full-length record. The four-piece features founding member Steffen Kummerer, also of hugely successful tech death outfit Obscura, but this is no hyper technical overly polished affair. Thulcandra draw their sounds from the legendary early 90s Swedish scene summoning up a blistering mix of black metal and death metal groups like Dissection, Sacramentum, Unanimated, and Necrophobic, then twisting that raw savageness by utilising the melodic sounds and tones of legendary melo-death groups like Dark Tranquillity and At The Gates. This thunderous mix is chock full of exciting riffage, glacial atmospheres, catchy melodies, and venomous vocals that will have you transported to the same arctic terrain I find myself in.
First things first, Steffen’s guitar work and songwriting are as top notch as ever, this guy is an absolute riff machine constantly producing interesting and engaging lines that will be stuck in your head for eons. The record kicks off with this acoustic section which screams The Gallery by Dark Tranquility or Orchid by Opeth. These sections and tones feature throughout the record, even occasionally popped right on top of one of Steffen’s wonderful riffs, which are less Orchid and more The Somberlain, utterly vicious and sharper than a surgeon’s scalpel. The guitar work is the absolute highlight from A Dying Wish, constantly evolving and deliciously entertaining.
utterly vicious and sharper than a surgeon’s scalpel…
Another strong part of this record is the vocals, Steffen conjures up his inner Tomas Lindberg with his mid-pitched screams which tail into these blackened snarls, Steffen spits out his lyrics at lightning pace and others drawn out into a caustic howl, absolutely killer. The vocals and guitars are joined with pacey drums that are nice and varied ranging from savage blasted sections with relentless double bass, to bouncing rhythms and tom driven lines, so hats off to Erebor (Alessandro Delastik) who knocked it out the park on this one.
One of the other biggest strong points on A Dying Wish is also one of its weak points and that’s the atmosphere. Thulcandra does a really good job of painting up their frozen wasteland with the acoustic interludes, blackened tones, and icy production, but all feelings of frozen corpses wielding giant scythes trembling towards you are killed off by the gaps between tracks finishing and starting. You lose that sense of getting lost in the record or being transported somewhere else, giving you a deep reminder that you’re listening to an album of separate tracks, rather than a full compendium of music that’s been meticulously pieced together, due to the high calibre of musicianship and songwriting that stands out.
Overall, A Dying Wish is ten excellent throwback tracks, each has its own stand out moment that I will go back to and enjoy, but as an overall piece, it’s let down by the production and the way that the album has been pieced together. It feels too separated and lacks fluidity that I’d expect from a record like this. What I’d stress is this is a heavily influenced record from bands I’ve mentioned previously, so if you’re expecting something new and unique and brain scrambling, I’d check out Steffen’s other group Obscura. I for one grew up on records like Sky Dancer, The Gallery, The Somberlain, Morningrise, and the like, so I love this kind of sound.
Scribed by: Matt Alexander