Originally written by Rae Amitay
This Belgian group’s name may be extraordinarily akin to the Finnish folk-metal band Turisas, but aside from six shared letters, the similarities end there. Thurisaz has delivered their unique and deeply atmospheric blend of blackened death metal since their impressive 2004 full-length debut, Scent of a Dream. Now on their third album, their creative versatility and masterful production has reached new heights with The Cimmerian Years. Filled with unbelievable vocal performances (cleans, growls, and screams) offered by three of the band’s members, complex and varied song structures, and stellar synth elements placed prominently in the mix, this album is a work of depth and genre-bending flexibility.
Opening with a brief and beautiful instrumental intro, “Broken” sets a wintery mood with clean guitars, grooving drums, and the sounds of howling winds. This gentleness creates a dynamic shift into “My Precious Unknown”, a full-on aural assault with screams bursting through layers of guitar and completely enveloping the listener with a visceral outcry. The vocals alternate between death metal growls and black metal screams, and choral synths add to the complex and richly textured atmosphere. Thurisaz doesn’t take a typical dark and brooding route, and instead opts for a more empowering and anthemic approach.
Undoubtedly more black metal influenced than the previous track, “Second Mirror” begins with heavily distorted walls of sound clamoring beneath devastating screams. After some time, the tune gives way to a more melo-death sound with keyboards and sung vocals, as seems a popular choice in their songwriting. Layered rasping vocals over clean harmonies create gorgeous juxtaposition, and Thurisaz should be commended for handling such an array of vocal styles so successfully.
“No Regrets” is potentially the most diverse track on the album, fusing straight-ahead death metal with intricate keyboard lines, offering a distinctive melodic edge. At times, comparisons with Agalloch spring to mind, with both bands expertly utilizing clean, chant-like vocals over rough and blackened instrumentation. The track also includes the deep, reverberating roar of Paul Kuhr (Novembers Doom), who performs guest vocals. The next song, “Fare Thee Well”, is the dirge of The Cimmerian Years. With slow, mournful guitars and crushing growls, its heaviness is balanced effortlessly with poignant clean passages.
Thurisaz manages to master multiple metal genres, all the while creating a gorgeous and haunting atmosphere. They also don’t shy away from lighter moments, as heard on “The Inner Voices”, a track with simple and undistorted instrumentation that supports clean vocal harmonies. Under three minutes, it’s a brief break from the pre-established aggressive tone. It sounds a bit like a stripped-down Katatonia piece, though perhaps Thurisaz is not quite as comfortable with harmonized clean vocals. Nevertheless, the versatility shown on The Cimmerian Years is truly astounding.
The album ends with “A Glance of Misperception”, a nearly nine-minute masterpiece that begins with minimal piano and soft, atmospheric, synth. This is soon united with a sorrowful guitar line, which evolves into a slow and emotionally compelling theme. The dynamics on this track are effortless and active, with death growls and distortion coexisting magnificently with tender interludes. The piece concludes with sung vocals soaring and echoing over the gloom, then slowly fades into silence.
The Cimmerian Years is a career-defining record, and it shows true mastery of depth, composition, and musicality. The graceful fusion of genres, exceptional songwriting, and remarkable musicianship all make The Cimmerian Years a must-have album.