This second full length album from Sofia's Bleak Revelation is entitled Collapse to reflect the state of society across the globe. I guess that's kind of home territory for a doom/death metal band, but irony struck when I initially misread the band's name as Bleak Revolution. I live in the United States for my sins and it's feeling rather like America is about to rejoin the world but only just and maybe not very well.
There's a lot here to explore, because this is far from a single genre release and it has far from a single sound.
Drown, the shortest song on the album at under three and a half minutes, begins proceedings with an impressive elegance. This is gothic metal with a lush lead vocal, albeit with a harsh equivalent taking care of the chorus. It's clear that the band have been listening to a lot of Paradise Lost and the results are as heavy as they are poetic and, dare I say it, commercial. This is single material.
The Road to Perdition slows things down considerably, almost to funeral doom pace, and swaps those voices. We only hear the harsh voice for a couple of minutes and it feels harsher. On the opener, it felt like a death growl but perhaps that was just in context. Here, with a slower, bleaker backdrop, it feels harsher still, more of a black metal shriek. The elegance returns later, that Paradise Lost guitar sound aching through the heaviness, but it's a rougher elegance, as if the band intended it to seem a lot less polished, with feedback edges on the guitarwork. The mixing up of the tempo late in the song adds to that. I ended up with Celtic Frost vibes.
And that rougher intention goes double for The Misanthrope, an epic at almost twelve minutes. The clean vocal here is more like a roar of pain, which is echoed by the harsh voice when it joins. I'm only seeing bass player Anton Andonov credited on vocals, but it really seems like there are two singers on this album, even as their individual voices vary to meet the needs of a particular song, right down to narration on most tracks. Maybe they're both him and the layering was done in the studio, in which case he'll need a partner to mimic this live. Maybe someone else just didn't get their credit.
While the varied vocal approach struck me first, the shifting pace wasn't far behind it. That happens a lot here and the range of paces employed is notably wide. Range like that tends to come up more with singers, who have a top note they can reach and a bottom one; if the difference between them is more than a couple of octaves, it becomes notable. With bands, there are usually a couple of tempos they're comfortable with; thrash bands often shifting between fast pace and mid-pace. Here, Bleak Revelation have dozens of different tempos and they often exercise a lot of them in a single song. They certainly keep us on the hop.
While the influences stay relatively static at Paradise Lost and Celtic Frost, they mix up that combo in a lot of different ways (The Web of Your Betrayal sounds more like the former musically but the latter when the vocals take on a chanting approach), and there are other sounds here. Death of a Wanderer has a Viking metal undertone through a martial drumbeat from Georgi Bogdanov, especially early on. There's plenty of psychedelia in the guitarwork on Void, a fantastic instrumental that ventures with confidence into stoner doom territory. I'm not sure what else is in Scorned, which is gothic metal but the guitar hints at folk melodies in its quieter moments.
In short, there's a lot here. It's almost all dark, those perkier melodies behind the crunch of Scorned notwithstanding. It's wildly varied in tempo and it moves between genres with ease. And, whatever it happens to be doing at any particular moment, it remains heavy, sometimes crushingly so, because of the guitar tones and the emotional depth. There are two guitarists, Martin Bachvarov and Aleksandar Dimitrov, and I have no idea which is doing what, but they're a solid team.
I haven't heard Bleak Revelation's first album, which was Afflictive Seclusion in 2015, but the band do suggest on their Bandcamp page that it wasn't quite as dark and heavy as this. Given how particularly dark and heavy this is, that may not mean much. Clearly I should check it out though, because this is a dark cloud of an album. After all the upbeat and perky releases that I've reviewed this week, this did a solid job of reasserting grim reality.