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Soulburn started as a side project to famed Dutch death machine Asphyx former primary members: guitarist Eric Daniels and drummer Bob Bagchus. Consequently, the string of Soulburn releases was limited to 1998's 'Feeding on Angels', up until a few years ago when Daniels and Bagchus both left Asphyx for good (?) to focus primarily on Soulburn. The result was the 2014 offering 'The Suffocating Darkness', and as we spell the fall of 2016 a third album, 'Earthless Pagan Spirit', is to be unleashed upon the world.
Although subtle, there has been a logical evolution of Soulburn's music. 'Feeding on Angels' was in reality a masked Asphyx album with only a few hints of primitive black metal influences. On 'The Suffocating Darkness' the 80's black metal sound took a more prominent seat in the music although the core was still Asphyx-styled doom/death.
On 'Earthless Pagan Spirit' this trend continues. What was previously blackened death metal now bears equal traits of said extreme metal genres. The mid-tempo and doom-laden parts of the album bears the typical Asphyx-styled riffs and hooks, but the up-tempo passages bear the strongest Bathory-resemblances to date on a Soulburn album.
This suits the band quite well. Bagchus drumming has always been more about feeling than technical precision and moves smoothly between the styles. Twan van Geel's vocals (who made their entry on 'The Suffocating Darkness') belongs to a time when the difference between death and black metal was image-oriented rather than musical and fits even better on 'Earthless Pagan Spirit' than its predecessor.
The fast episodes on this album are really good and I find myself a bit surprised to see Daniels et al take Bathory's legacy to such heights. The weak parts on 'Earthless Pagan Spirit' are, even more surprisingly, those bearing the most resemblance to Asphyx. Where the former feels fresh and inspiring, the latter are rehashed and unoriginal. Even some new elements such as clean and female vocals cannot lift those parts of the album.
Even though this is the weakest Soulburn album to date, it is still enjoyable enough, even for those not previously familiar with the band. 'Earthless Pagan Spirit' is, however, the most unique Soulburn album to date and shows a band on the path towards something truly interesting.
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