Album Title: Burdens Of The Earth
Label: Independent Release
Date of Release: 28 April 2023
Having been thoroughly entertained and impressed by Neverus when they took to the stage at ProgPower Europe back in October last year, I felt it was only fair to spend a little time getting to know the band’s debut album, ‘Burdens Of The Earth’, now that it has finally seen the light of day. I say ‘finally’, but had it not been for the fact that the young Dutch upstarts were invited to play my favourite of all the festivals, I’d have been none the wiser. To the uninitiated, ‘Burdens Of The Earth’ has come out of nowhere.
And even to those more in the know, there’s a feeling perhaps that there is some truth to this observation. After all, the quartet only sprang to life in the very same year as their performance at ProgPower Europe, releasing a few singles along the way, but that’s about it. And now we have the debut full-length from Neverus, a band comprised of vocalist/guitarist Jack Streat, guitarist Robin Ritzen, drummer Joris Sevat, and bassist Roman Potasse. And what a debut it is.
Having stood a few feet from the stage for their entire action-packed and energetic performance, I knew roughly what to expect from a Neverus record. I knew I was in line for a blast of melodic death metal with a strong Finnish, Wintersun-like vibe. And there is indeed plenty of that style of music to be heard across ‘Burden Of The Earth’. But what I wasn’t prepared for, was the sheer breadth, depth, and ambition of the music that’s presented here. Not only that, but there is a sense of fun, and of daring do that runs like a thread through the album. This could have gone horribly wrong, but such is their apparent talent, commitment, and youthful enthusiasm, they not only succeed, but they have impressed me, too.
I’m not sure which of the quartet is credited with the orchestrations and synths, but whoever it is, take a bow. The band refer to their music as ‘majestic death metal’ and that’s definitely apt, as the orchestration adds a definite grandeur to the compositions here. But added to the death metal, you could also reference power metal, black metal, with even some neoclassical and progressive metal tendencies shining through at points within the twelve individual tracks.
That youthful exuberance and enthusiasm translates well through the music, as the songs never sit still, always flitting from one idea to the next. Again, this may have been disastrous for the final product, but these guys manage to pull it all off. They achieve this by ensuring that the songs don’t outstay their welcome, and that by and large, there’s always something to catch the listener’s ear, regardless of whatever else might be going on. If I’m being entirely honest and truthful, I’d have loved a little more in terms of knockout hooks or melodies, but that’s just personal preference. And I’m only picking at the edges as there isn’t anything fundamentally negative about this album, except perhaps the underwhelming cover art and logo. See, I’m being really picky, now.
Back to the positives, and it’s almost impossible to know where to begin. It could be with the thunderous yet dextrous drumming, enhanced by excellent bass work, the consummate skills of the guitarists both in rhythm and lead roles, the impressive vocals that are evil growls mainly, but also dabble with soaring, commanding cleans when the compositions require it. Or maybe it’s a surprisingly crisp production that, despite being self-produced and, on a budget, never lets the music down.
After the ubiquitous gentle instrumental intro, ‘Banish And Burn’ sets out to immediately conquer the hearts and minds of anyone who will listen. And it does it really well, thanks to a thunderous opening symphonic extreme metal blast of intensity. Clean vocals and gruff trade places, whilst the rhythm section marches the song along at a fair lick. The song also allows a subtle melody or two to emerge as familiarity with it grows. The lead and rhythm guitars add heaviness and a whimsical feel between them, enhanced by the symphonics alongside which they sit. Neoclassical runs add technicality, as do the constant shifts in the composition, but never does the music spiral out of control.
I’m reminded a touch of Kamelot as ‘Calderian’ begins, thanks to the galloping tempo and rhythms. Children Of Bodom and strangely, Bal Sagoth come to mind, too, but these are fleeting references caused by the ambitious and upbeat stylings of the song, not to mention the bombast and sense of theatre that comes through very strongly within the track.
What’s also incredibly noticeable is how much music these guys manage to cram into such a short run time. ‘Burdens Of The Earth’ is comprised of twelve tracks, four of which are short interludes/instrumentals. As such, the album lasts for a very nice and compact 46 minutes. But within that, Neverus deliver the listener so much music, so many ideas, and tons of entertainment. It is a lesson for those bands out there that needlessly bulk out their material for no reason – Metallica, I’m looking at you.
Stand-out tracks are difficult, given the overall quality of ‘Burdens Of The Earth’. But, if I had to start anywhere, it’d be with ‘Mournful March’. When I mentioned earlier that I’d love Neverus to include more memorable melodic work into their music, this is the song that comes closest to delivering that killer blow. Right from the outset, there’s a catchiness to the song which, to my mind, further enhances their music even further. It doesn’t lose any of the untamed exuberance, but instead, just rams home the strength of the band’s songwriting skills.
The insane drum battery that drives the early stages of ‘One For Blood’ alongside a majestic, almost triumphant soundscape is great, as are the choral style vocals that are used to good effect. And, fittingly, the album ends on a real high, thanks to the eight-plus-minute finale, ‘Temptation’. If you thought that Neverus had been pretty epic up to this point, they only go and top it here, throwing everything that went before into a melting pot, before adding lighter fluid and tossing in a lit match.
I don’t like every moment of this album but, for a debut, it is undeniably impressive. Yes, I’d have loved a little more killer melody, and perhaps a touch more moderation within a handful of the songs. But these are small quibbles in the grand scheme of things. Here we have something very refreshing indeed, namely a young band who demonstrate great talent, but importantly, are able to translate that talent into great songs. If this is just the beginning for ‘majestic death metal’ band Neverus, sign me up for the newsletter to see what comes next.
The Score of Much Metal: 85%