Ambient black metal is not my favorite genre, plain and simple, but I find myself liking Seeking Refuge, the debut album and solo project of DC Mills (ex-Bloodline Severed). For me, one hallmark of a good album is being able to listen to every song and also to be able to start at any point in the album and have the overall flow still work. Both of those characteristics are here. Being able to pick those out was relatively simple for me as I received the entire album as one 36-minute track. The listener is drawn into a story-like experience from the beginning sounds of cold wind blowing through the trees. I am instantly transported to a cold, dark wintry wilderness frame of mind, and that overall feeling persists almost to the very end track where there is an underlying soundscape of insects at night.
Musically, the album starts out with some solemn sounding clean guitar somewhat ominous in tone like it is setting up the listener for something greater. Atmospheric keyboards add to the effect nicely, and then following some cymbals acting like a signal, the black metal onslaught begins. Vocals remind me a bit of Frost Like Ashes with the black metal shrieks and fit well. Everything fits together extremely well in this album, even some use of feedback before a guitar kicks in, which to me is a nice touch I like to hear and it is not so prevalent in black metal.
The overall flow is what really strikes me about this release. The music shifts seamlessly between the acoustic and ambient to the black metal and then back again with no awkwardness. It really is so fluid that it reminds me of a movie the way it flows and all the pieces fit together. The overall atmosphere is somewhat dark and foreboding but somehow comforting at the same time. There is hope in the darkness.
According to the Vials of Wrath facebook page, the album actually began in the fall of 2009, when Mills was not a member of Bloodline Severed, but was inspired by other solo acts like Ihsahn, Burzum, and Xasthur to write and self-produce some Bible-based black metal. This is an incredible debut release and especially as a solo project. Production quality is excellent throughout and the arrangements are very well done. I would have liked to have heard the drums a bit more pronounced or defined, but that is primarily my own taste. In the end, there is so much good here that this is one of those albums that will get a lot of play
1) A Greater Calling
2) To Walk Upon The Heights
3) Contemplating Creation
4) The Beginning of Sorrows
5) In Sackcloth And Ashes
6) Alone In The Wilderness
DC Mills – all instruments, vocals
Record Label: Independent, April 2013
Vials of Wrath, EP (2011)
Vials of Wrath / War Frozen, Split (2011)
Seeking Refuge, EP (2013)
Video below: Album Teaser: