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SMOULDER - Dream Quest Ends

Release date March 13/20 (Cruz del Sur)

Toronto's Smoulder showed promise as an up-and-coming entity in the epic doom world with 2019's Times of Obscene Evil and Wild Daring full length. While the music and musicianship proved to be up to snuff, I had trouble consuming the performance at the mic, given that I generally steer clear of crooning vocals with my doom. Give me some warble, off-kilter vocals with my woofer-damaging stuff, thank you. Gotta say that I also have trouble consuming Dungeons and Dragons lyrical fare, finding the whole swords and sorcery imagery kinda silly.

So, here we are a year later and the band have issued an EP containing two new tracks, a cover and demos of three previous tracks. The title track (Dream Quest Ends) opens proceedings with a loping riff that immediately catches the attention, before Sarah Ann kicks in with the vocals. Seemingly more confident, her vocals here are much improved and the inclusion of a monotone male backing voice during the chorus also works well. More of this in the future, please.

"Warrior Witch of Hell" up next, a straight-up trad doom song that marches forth vigorously, with intermittent melodic guitar phrasing adding colour. Another cool track. A cover of Manilla Road's "Bastard Steel" follows. Musically this is spot on, however, Sarah Ann's attempts at vibrato in some segments just don't work (and are actually disconcerting). However, elsewhere in the track we hear what is easily her best vocal performance to date to these ears. Here she seems to be approaching the mic with conviction, adding bite and bile that is very welcome indeed.

So, altogether an enjoyable release that contains some potential strengths that can be leveraged in future releases. Very promising indeed.

(7.5)

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