Label: Redefining Darkness Records
Release date: 10-04-2020
Sovereign is a relatively new band in the Norwegian metal scene. However its members are seasoned veterans. The band is formed by guitarists Tommy and Vidar of famed black/thrash metal band Nocturnal Breed.
Kristian and Gravskjender complete the band by handling drums and bass/vocals respectively. While comparisons with Nocturnal Breed are iminent, Sovereign sounds quite different. Nocturnal Breed approaches their brand of black/thrash metal in a more traditional manner with clear influences from the teutonic thrash sound and possibly comparable to contemporaries like Aura Noir. Sovereign, however, are more death/thrash in that regard with influences stemming from early Death while also incorporating thrash-y elements.
When it comes to the production values, Sovereign has a rawer sound. It’s discernible but it invokes a feeling that you’re watching/listening to the band performing live in a basement. It’s grimey as fuck but not venturing into cavernous territory. Gravskjender’s vocals are raspy and seem to draw influences from the vocal styles of early Possessed. It’s actually not too dissimilar in its delivery from the vocals of fellow Norwegian death metal compatriots, Obliteration.
Prior to Neurotic, Sovereign had released one single and a three-track demo. To be frank, the Neurotic EP doesn’t have any new material to offer listeners but it’s more of a re-release of all their original tracks, four in total, by Redefining Darkness. In a way, I can see this making sense for the band as they are relatively new in the scene and a fairly prominent label in the underground like Redefining Darkness would help catapult the band to more listeners. Heck, I’m definitely one of them.
What I like right off the bat are Sovereign’s song structures. Each song has a handful of primary riffs while the songs’ tempos undulate from beginning to end. Immersed in Ashes begins with solid mid-tempo chunky riffs before switching gears to balls out thrash-y moments. There are also slower guitar sections in that song which attempt at evoking an eerie atmosphere. The intro to Neurotic Existence has a strong early Slayer vibe. It reminded me of how Seasons in the Abyss starts.
After the minute and a half long buildup, the song veers into early Death territory (a reference point that I mentioned earlier). Neurotic Existence is the longest track on the EP clocking in at six and a half minutes. It has a slow to mid-tempo pace to it. If you had heard this one song, you would’ve probably assumed the band to be an out-an-out old school death metal band. Paroxysm of Madness reminds us that Sovereign are in fact a death/thrash band.
The band returns to that thrash-y pace and does nothing wrong in the riff department. Ending the EP in a similar vein, is the last track, Iron Cast, which was the band’s first ever track released in 2018. The track actually opens with a guitar solo and then dives into the verse-chorus typical structure. The faster riffs are a little less discernible but when they slow things down to mid-tempo, you can feel the riffs cut right through the mix. Very headbang-worthy. With this, the twenty minute long EP comes to a close.
We’ve covered the good bits but what are some areas where the EP lets you down. Well, for me, I felt the guitar solos were too noodly. I view solos as the cherry on top of a good well structured song. They have the latter for sure but in general the guitar solos were a period of me waiting for them to just pass by quickly. It’s like Kerry King’s solos, they’re there, they don’t do much to you and are only memorable in the sense that they feel like a hot mess.
Overall, I think Sovereign’s Neurotic EP is a really good slab of heavy music. I’ll give credit where credit’s due but at times, one tends to feel that the content isn’t too original. It’s very easy for a band to get lost in the plethora of death/thrash or black/thrash bands out there who also have similar “old school” sounds. At the moment, the Neurotic EP does its job of keeping the listener interested and I hope the band continues to mix it up a bit in the future as well. More kickass songs like Neurotic Existence please!
- Gravskjender – Bass, Vocals
- Kristian Horn – Drums
- Tommy Jacobsen – Guitars
- V. Fineideath – Guitars
- Immersed in Ashes
- Neurotic Existence
- Paroxysm of Madness
- Iron Cast demo