Dark metallers Sear Bliss manage highs and lows with unparalleled deftness. Going all the way back to Phantoms—a minor watershed moment for Eastern European metal in 1996—the Hungarians have struggled to match the sophistication and ingenuity of their own work. To wit, “Aeons of Desolation” is far and away (thanks, in part, to Csaba Csejtey’s stunning solo) one of Sear Bliss’ best creations to date. Only “Birth of Eternity” and “A Deathly Illusion” come close and they were written in the mid-aughts. Now, 25 years after forming Sear Bliss, the András Nagy-led quartet issue their most complete album since Phantoms.
Truly, Letters from the Edge distills the strongest moments—including the brass motifs formerly by Gergely Szücs but currently employed by Zoltán Pál—of the seven previous albums into 50 minutes of dark metal brilliance. Lead-off track “Shroud” (actually, the album closer) posits a contemplative riff on Sear Bliss’ mid-tempo march. It’s the kind of thing the Hungarians have hinted at but never quite delivered until now, a sort of Rotting Christ-meets-A Perfect Circle spirited romp. Elsewhere, they’ve also learned how to write and transition into/out of the faster aspects of Sear Bliss’ sound. More than ever, the speed and aggression feel natural—not a jackhammered into atmosphere—and just about right. This is true for “Forbidden Doors,” “Seven Springs” and “Leaving Forever Land.” But the centerpieces of Letters from the Edge are in the slower numbers, namely “A Mirror in the Forest,” “The Main Divide” and the aforementioned “Shroud.” Don’t miss out on this ’cause you don’t recognize the name.