I talk about originality a lot at Apocalypse Later. One of my missions is to find music unlike anything that I've heard before and this is absolutely not that, so let's get that out of the way quickly. This is as close to a melodic black metal template as I've heard in a long time, appropriately given that Sinira's Bandcamp page is honest about this being "a homage and tribute to the Swedish titans who reigned proud and whose flames still burn bright." So, no, it's not original at all.
However, I also talk about quality and this is a thoroughly enjoyable melodic black metal album, with six long songs that wax and wane through frequent dynamic shifts, always maintaining neat textures. This is a one man band, with Knell, the talent behind Sinira, responsible for playing every instrument here except the piano on the final piece of music, and his technical ability is clearly excellent. He also wrote it all, produced it, mixed it and, no doubt, put the kettle on and swept the studio floor. Even if it doesn't tread any new ground, he ought to be proud of this debut.
What impresses me about this isn't his versatility, as black metal is full of one man bands, but his age. When Dissection released Storm of the Light's Bane in 1995, he surely failed to notice because he was busy being born. When Sacramentum released Far Away from the Sun a year later, he was likely trying to figure out how to stand up. Yet he clearly groks the genre, because this album does everything that it should. To add to the surprise, he hails from Nacogdoches, Texas, which feels natural for a pithy sort of writer like Joe R. Lansdale but hardly tops any list of hotbeds of melodic black metal activity.
I liked this immediately, because of its sound. Where Starlight Does Not Shine is fast, of course, but it also plays with the tempo and the transitions are neatly handled. In instrumental sections, the guitar is prominent with its melodies given wings to soar above everything else, even when it's not soloing. In vocal sections, it's lower to allow for Knell's dark voice to share the limelight. Gardens of Pestilence continues that, allowing a little more to happen with the drums, and so does The Everlorn.
The biggest problem this album has is that the songs are similar enough to blur together. I was never bored with them, but I often lost track of which one I was listening to, because, once Knell had found a sound, he stuck with it most of the way. The songs do delineate themselves a little over repeat listens, but they share a very similar approach, enough that I'd be telling you that this felt like a single piece of music, a generous one too at almost an hour long, if it hadn't been for Dawnless Twilight.
This is the sixth of those six songs and the longest of them. The others are long too, the shortest just shy of seven minutes and the longest almost nine and a half, excluding a brief interlude called Souls of the Flame and an outro called Omega XI. Dawnless Twilight, though, runs eleven and a half and is a magnetic piece of music for all of those minutes. It has a more epic sweep from the outset, doing what the other songs did but more confidently and more majestically. Then it adds some neat depths, near the four minute mark that elevate it even further, and again later. This one's immersive and it grows.
The catch to this song leaping out from its peers so firmly is that it underlined to me that, while this whole album is strong, it could always be stronger. If I'm enjoying it already, how much more will I in a follow up that does throughout what Dawnless Twilight does here? I don't expect a second album in the near future, because Knell has been careful to explain that being a one man band means that he's always going to take longer to create, but I'll be waiting for album two when it arrives. I'll give this a 7/10 but add a point to that if you're not fussed about originality.