Epic Doom Metal from Russia
Perfection – the state of being perfect; being entirely without fault or defect; satisfying all requirements; corresponding to an ideal standard or abstract concept. I think we all understand the concept of perfection, but how do we apply it to music? Music is so incredibly subjective and so emotionally charged. The emotion music elicits isn’t quantifiable or tangible. Here on site, I’ve already given three albums a perfect score and I’m about to do that again. To me, an album doesn’t need to be consistent all the way through to be perfect, nor does it need every note to be flawlessly arranged. Some albums have something very special – a type of aura. If the album accomplishes everything it set out to do, and nothing else has been able to replicate it or get close, then it’s perfect. By this criteria, Scald’s Will of the Gods is Great Power is a perfect album.
I still distinctly remember the very first time I listened to Scald. I was young and just starting to dive into the epic doom metal scene with bands like Candlemass, Solitude Aeturnus, and Solstice. I asked a close friend, someone I considered a mentor, for more bands in that vein and he told me to listen to Scald as soon as possible. I was in for a treat – I put on Will of the Gods is Great Power shortly after speaking with him and I was hit immediately with a wave of emotion. This album had something very special indeed. I felt utterly overwhelmed, but amazed at the same time that I found music like this. The pure sense of wonder and astonishment persists for me today, over a decade later.
My experience with Scald is not a unique one. I’ve witnessed firsthand others feeling the same admiration and amazement at their first listen of Will of the Gods is Great Power – some who otherwise would have never touched epic metal in any way. It’s difficult to distill the magic at work here, but on a high level Scald play slow paced, folk-infused, epic doom metal. When you think of this genre, Candlemass immediately come to mind, but that’s not really a big influence here. Scald draw their inspiration from Hammerheart-era Bathory and mix it with Manowar‘s Ross the Boss-era epics like “Secret of Steel” to create a powerful and triumphant sound.
Will of the Gods is Great Power clocks in at over fifty minutes and features just six tracks. When songs are simple, slow, and average over nine minutes there’s a serious risk of being dull and drawn out, but that’s not the case here in the slightest. Every note, every folk passage, every riff, every synth touch, every beautiful vocal melody – it all matters and has massive impact. Instead of being long and boring, the songs feel painfully short. I’m always left yearning for more when the album ends and I often find myself starting it back up immediately.
The production plays a huge part in making Will of the Gods is Great Power so mesmerizing and addicting. On the whole, it’s rougher than most albums in the epic doom style. Instead of being warm and bass heavy, Scald’s production is cold and virtually devoid of bass. The treble heavy production works in conjunction with a thin, razor-sharp guitar tone to create a wintery sound with a ton of bite. The drums and bass guitars are buried in the mix, accentuating the lead guitars and giving plenty of room for the band’s all star vocalist, Agyl, to drive the music and shine.
Agyl’s vocals are one of a kind and in a league entirely of their own. It’s impossible for me to discuss him without sounding hyperbolic, but he is genuinely one of my favorite metal vocalists. His tone is phenomenal and when combined with his bombastic and dramatic delivery it creates a deadly combination. Agyl compliments the instrumentation nicely and is often at the forefront of the music, allowing him to be the band’s centerpiece. Scald gives him all the room possible to drive the music and few do this as effectively as Agyl. He typically sits at a lower register, but there are plenty of moments where he shows off his tremendous range and graces us with his haunting highs. There’s a powerful moment half way through the track “A Tumulus” where he sings entirely in his highs, giving me shivers everytime without fail. The only complaint I’ve ever seen concerning Agyl is around his pronunciation. Given that Scald are a Russian band, Agyl’s first language isn’t English and this is painfully clear. He has difficulty pronouncing words clearly and sometimes it feels like he’s singing with a mouth full of cottonballs as a result. It’s largely incomprehensible and he could be insulting my mother for all I know, but it doesn’t matter. I don’t need to make out the words he’s singing to understand that Agyl’s voice is simply beautiful.
Unfortunately, Agyl passed away in a tragic accident very shortly after the release of Will of the Gods is Great Power. Scald split in 1997 with just this lone album as their legacy, but what a legacy it is. With just one album, Scald left a lasting impact far exceeding what many bands accomplish with expansive catalogs. I have listened to this album countless times over the years and the sense of wonder that overcame me the very first time is still there the hundredth time.
Album Rating: 100/100
Favorite Track: A Tumulus