Vanum wisely chose not to change up their approach much on new album Ageless Fire. It’s a follow-up to their critically acclaimed debut Realm of Sacrifice, which melded post-Wolves in the Throne Room American black metal with the stately pace and grandeur of doom metal. Wisely, they saw fit to not reinvent the wheel too much on this followup; the songs are shorter overall, sure, but they still arc through the same types of movements and mutations.
The shift in average track length does help the proceedings feel a bit more brisk and lively. There is a power to laying a small number of epic-length tracks melding black and doom metal together, but it also breeds only a specific type of atmosphere. It’s easy to imagine that touring Realm of Sacrifice, with its four meaty epics and nothing else, gave Vanum a desire for something a bit punchier in terms of pacing if not radically different, musically speaking. Only one of Ageless Fire’s 6 tracks crests over the 10-minute mark, and that one only just barely, sitting at a comfy 10:13. They’ve learned to take those horizontal approaches to songwriting and trim them, keeping what feels like the same rough number of riff changeups and massive, world-engulfing moments of (for want of a better word) epic American black metal but condensed into a smaller timeframe.
They still clearly love a meaty epic, though, because the sole 10-plus minute track “Eternity” is the album highlight. They meld those harmonized black metal leads, which in American black metal tend to follow more traditional heavy metal arcs in terms of their melodic structures rather than a fixation on chromatically stacked minor or diminished chords, with wide expanses of a quite gorgeous and celestial sounding synth pad. Blast beats abound, in case anyone were to forget they were a black metal band, and the final two minutes are a righteous and anthemic closer. “Eternity” is a sign of their songwriting acumen, that they can make those wide expanses of time pass in a blink of the eye rather than them dragging on, dull and tepid.
Langdon Hickman is listening to progressive rock and death metal. He currently resides in Virginia with his partner and their two pets.