So, what happens when you combine 25 years of thrill, Sear Bliss most ambitious releases, and a Romanian metal show? A welcome time warp of avant-garde sounds, nostalgic people, and over two hours of metal transcendence, of course.
Sear Bliss put their own blackened spin on their well-worn genre of choice, and the sound from this night was dark and immensely heavy music, full of melancholy and atmosphere. Up to this point, Sear Bliss has been evolving their sound with every release. They had a great start with “Phantoms” back in 1996, but since that album, I have found that every full-length exceeds its predecessor in terms of quality within the musicianship as well as the structure. Sear Bliss has definitely crafted a unique sound within the genre of metal. They are very well-known for playing trumpet (or trombone)-driven, epic style of black metal with an emphasis on atmosphere.
The show started with Kroppen; a quite new band from Romania. Their show was energic and they really enjoyed their time on the stage. The band started in the summer of 2013 in a small Romanian town, created by lead guitarist and vocalist Ovidiu Stanciu. Due to some members leaving they took a hiatus until 2015. They approach a sort of death/black metal mixture and I’m really confident that they’re on a good track. So: keep up!
Next was Downfall. There is not much I can say about them. They’re black metal and kind of obscure band from Bucharest. Established in 2014, they took the stage with full force; the songs remind me of the old black metal scene. There is room for improvement, of course, but, overall the show was worth the time.
After a short break, all the equipment is set up and the sound checks were carefully made. This time was Sear Bliss who took the stage.
The band was founded in 1993 and they were the first extreme metal band in the Hungarian underground signed by a Western European label.
After the critically acclaimed “The Pagan Winter” demo tape (1995), the debut album (Phantoms) was released by Mascot Records. “Phantoms” was voted for “Album of the Month” by Netherlands’ biggest metal magazine Aardschok. Still today, 22 years later, “Phantoms” is credited as one of the best Hungarian metal albums ever by Recorder Magazine in their home country. The second album, “The Haunting”, was also a great success, lifting the band’s perspective to a higher level. Sear Bliss have never stopped in their 25 years career to continuously producing albums, always changing, never releasing the same album under a different title.
Every time I hear “Two Worlds Collide”, (the song taken from the album “Glory and Perdition”), this time opening the show, I’m amazed at the quality of what I’ve just heard.
There are many-billion-plus different ways something can sound “avant-garde”. For reasons of incisiveness, let’s simplify the matter and say that this band managed to induce the sounds we thought to be long forgotten, to a quite numerous presence.
Multifaceted and complex songs abound, often melodious and occasionally intriguing, more time signatures than you can count, but in every case, the result is something ear-pleasing.
The authentic framework of Sear Bliss music is given by some of the harmonies and themes that are downright gorgeous in their melancholic beauty.
Enhanced with the trombone sound provided by Zoltán Pál, the keynote becomes quite original. The second song, “Seven Springs”, taken from the 2018 album “Letters from the Edge” was greeted by the public as the venue becomes ecstatic. This song, especially, earns its notoriety through its atmosphere and melancholic vibe.
The vocals of András Nagy are maybe the most aggressive piece of the puzzle as the growling is intense and upbeat reminding more of death metal bands than of black metal ones. That being said, they work to a great extent in this set-up and with the authenticity factor, they deliver a unique sound. There are also some keyboard /synth atmospheric passages used as an additional element in the background to enhance the overall sound.
Next were “Death In Torment” and “Eternal Battlefields”, a great opportunity for the crowd to sing and dance along. Needless to say that the highlights of the evening, for the nostalgics, like myself, were “The Pagan Winter” and “Blood Serenade”. I remembered my high school years when I bought Metal Hammer Magazine, the Hungarian version, although I didn’t understand a word in there, the artwork of “The Haunting” album really caught my eye. From there, my interest increased steadily.
Another important mention about this show goes to the guitar and bass work. The riffs were well blended and the solos really caught my ear.
Overall, the show production was good, once again Quantic Club proves that a lot of things, like the sound and light equipment, were improved and that the venue is ready for more discerning music addicts.
The show ended with another old gem, the song “1100 Years Ago” taken from the first Sear Bliss album-“Phantoms”.
On the atmospheric side of black metal, especially in the earlier days of its development, it’s rather hard to not let the “metal” side of things get lost in the mixture, effects, layering, and so on. Sear Bliss is one of the few exceptions that managed to master a unique sound without stumbling into mannerism or symphonic excess.
Photos by Gheorghe Paraschiv.
Sear Bliss setlist:
Two Worlds Collide
Death In Torment
As the Bliss Is Burning
A Mirror in the Forest
Birth Of Eternity
The Pagan Winter
1100 Years Ago