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Heavenly Down

Hungary Country of Origin: Hungary

1. Infinite Grey
2. Watershed
3. The Upper World
4. Heavenly Down
5. Forgotten Deities
6. The Winding Path
7. Chasm
8. Feathers In Ashes

Review by Vladimir on June 5, 2024.

In all these years of listening to black metal, as well as metal in general, it’s a seldom to come across an album so great that you literally become one with its magic, to the point where you just don’t know what happened, yet you know that it just left a big mark on your life. Somewhere around autumn of 2023, I had the chance to see the Hungarian black metal band Sear Bliss perform live, and oh boy what a night it was, because what I witnessed was just so powerful that it wasn’t just a regular concert, it was an adventure. A black metal band with brass instruments like euphonium and trombone, backed up by keyboards and even barytone, is by no means an easy feat to achieve, yet what they did was literally calling down the thunder all its might and glory. There were words of a new album coming out in 2024, which was teased through their live shows and social media around that time, and that got me pretty excited, because I had no clue what I was getting myself into. Come the year 2024, and now we are finally here, to witness the divine come down from the great heavens. Their ninth full-length album Heavenly Down is due to be released on June 28th, 2024 via Hammerheart Records, marking the band’s epic return after 8 years since the release of their previous album Letters From The Edge. The important question is: what hath become of me when I had stumbled upon the lady dressed in white, standing in the marshes as the tree spirits gaze from the distance? I can only say, that l did not know what stands before me, and little did I know that I would not return from this journey the same like before. If you are curious to know what stands underneath the holy sun, calling upon the divine, then you are most welcome to join me on this journey. 

From the very first track 'Infinite Grey', we are slowly transcending into this spiritual experience, until the heavens storm down upon us with an otherworldly form of epic black metal, shrouded in pure mystery and heavy as the wrath of Mother Nature. The album has barely even started, and yet we are already starting off so strong with such incredible heaviness and such deadly but attractive beauty, which goes even further with melancholy on 'Watershed' and then climbing higher into 'The Upper World', where you are left amazed and uncertain as to what will come next. At this point, you suddenly begin to realize that once you enter the unknown realm of Heavenly Down, there is no coming back, because you know you will not return from the journey same as you were before. For a long time now, Sear Bliss has been known as “metal with horns”, stating the subtle fact that the music is dominated by the incredible inclusion of trombone work by Zoltán Pál, who had been pouring his amazing talents and delivering excellence since Grand Destiny from 2001, taking the band’s musicality to a whole another level and giving it a strong cinematic touch. A good example that demonstrates their brilliant musicality, while also giving a short break from black metal, is the track 'Forgotten Deities', a beautiful ambient instrumental that nicely builds the gap between the first and second half of the album. For real, this album doesn’t stop giving, it’s always good at keeping you on edge and curious as to what you might face next, and just you thought that this album can’t get any more interesting, it’s not long after when you come across something mind-blowing. Just take a look at the epic ambient synth part on 'The Winding Path', continued by the awesome melodic section with trombones, or the heavy and powerful song 'Chasm' in its entirety, and tell me that is not a work of art right there. You would be a fool to think that this album isn’t interesting or engaging at all, because that’s what Heavenly Down has been doing from start to finish, constantly delivering on every aspect. If there is one thing that this album also does great, it’s the fact that it gradually builds up the ultimate climax with every song, and once you experience the grand spectacle of 'Feathers In Ashes', you actually feel like you are becoming one with Mother Nature as the song swallows you entirely. Another important fact about this track is that it gives a great sense of closure, leaving this album with a grand payoff that really makes you feel that it was totally worth it. 

The songwriting of Sear Bliss has always had a lot of progression and atmosphere, providing a variety of ideas that are nicely expressed through such complex but creative form of black metal instrumentation. If there is one significant thing about this album that stands out to me, it’s the fact that it’s got such an immense mesmerizing quality to it, where you are completely free of your mind and just witnessing greatness through your eyes, hardly believing what is going on right now. Atmosphere is definitely the strongest element of this album, and without a doubt its biggest highlight, especially due to the fact that you don’t exactly feel like you are listening to an album, but rather going on a spiritual journey to the infinite worlds beyond the one of your own, while embracing the blessings of the supreme divines. Pardon my expression, but to describe the overall experience of Heavenly Down word for word is so difficult, however I think it would be very reasonable to say that it’s the equivalent of an orgasm, because everything about this album was so incredibly executed that you just can’t tell what I love so much about it. As for the general musicality, besides the great melodies and guitar work, as well as the excellence of Zoltán Pál’s use of brass instruments, what also managed to get my attention are the dynamic bass lines of András Nagy, which adds so much layers to the music, while also complimenting the heavy riffs and the double-bass drums. If you are genuinely familiar with the previous works of Sear Bliss, you will undoubtedly love the album’s artwork, done by the talented and legendary Kris Verwimp, who had been providing such fantastic work since their debut album Phantoms in 1996, and this latest cover art is very faithful to the general art style that became quite synonymous with Sear Bliss. As for the production of Heavenly Down, the album has such a high quality and top-notch sound, bringing out every detail to its highest peak, which is no surprise considering that the mastering was done by the great and respected Swedish producer Dan Swanö, who had also worked on their previous albums Forsaken Symphony and Letters From The Edge, and he certainly nailed the final result. 

What can I say about this album that hasn’t already been said? Words can’t describe how this album touched my soul from the moment I first heard it, because I was left so speechless that I literally thought I was having an out of body experience. Ever since I saw Sear Bliss perform live in my hometown last year, even then I was left without words, and once they teased the arrival of the new album, I was not prepared for the journey I was about to embark. Heavenly Down is a brilliant and magical album that shows a great example of epic and atmospheric black metal as a work of art, and I am not ashamed to call it a masterpiece because that’s what it is. The essence and the magic of their music is what many bands out there would wish they had, but what Sear Bliss achieved on this album, as well as their entire discography, it is a talent that you simply cannot replicate, and it would be a cardinal sin to criticize their master-crafted style and sound. 

Rating: 10 out of 10 Feathers in Ashes