Thulcandra – A Dying Wish – Album Review
Album Title: A Dying Wish
Label: Napalm Records
Date of Release: 29 October 2021
I was gently nudged in the direction of Thulcandra a couple of years ago when a social media acquaintance suggested I give them a try as a more ‘moral’ alternative to Dissection. Given that Dissection are no more, and their leader, Jon Nötveidt had a somewhat chequered past to put it mildly, I jumped at the chance to give this recommendation a try. Naturally, ‘Under A Frozen Sun’, Thulcandra’s sophomore full-length from 2011 was investigated and thoroughly enjoyed. It offered nothing new, wearing the Dissection influences on their collective sleeves for all to see and hear. But sometimes, great music can be great music regardless of whether it is original, or a shameless exercise in homage to another entity. Some might call it ‘copying’, but I prefer ‘homage’ as I’m a polite sort.
After a wait of six years, Thulcandra finally return with a new album, the fourth of their career to date. Entitled ‘A Dying Wish’, it once again sees band mastermind Steffen Kummerer (Obscura) take the lead as vocalist, guitarist, and main songwriter. Kummerer is joined by drummer Erebor, guitarist Mariano Delastik and bassist Christian Kratzer in order to bring this latest album to life.
The thing with Dissection that I loved so much was the fact that they sounded icy cold and malevolent, but when they indulged in melody, it was jaw-droppingly beautiful, catchy, or a stunning combination of the two. Out of the darkness would come moments of incredible, epic beauty that still give me goosebumps today. I’m thinking ‘Where Dead Angels Lie’ or ‘Night’s Blood’ as just two immediate examples.
By contrast, although undeniably laced with melody, the Thulcandra approach doesn’t quite deliver the same shiver-inducing and grandiose melodic moments. And ultimately, that’s the difference. Otherwise, there is little to fault on ‘A Dying Wish’. Kummerer and Delastik work excellently in tandem to deliver icy riff after icy riff, and the eight metallic tracks contain a great deal of the menace and bite that 90s influenced blackened death metal requires. Kummerer also has the nasty, spiteful vocal delivery that fits the uncompromising sonic backdrop perfectly. I like the fact that some of the heavier compositions allow room for an acoustic guitar or two to add some subtle sophistication, whether it is within the tumult or as the focal point within a momentary easing of the intensity. Hell, there are even two brief acoustic interludes to be heard on the record, much like those that featured on ‘The Somberlain’, albeit not as memorable unfortunately.
There other accusation that could be thrown at Thulcandra is that there isn’t quite enough variation within and between the tracks. I have listened to ‘A Dying Wish’ a number of times before opening my laptop to compose this review but I still had to check back to the promo to see which song I was listening to. Admittedly, this also means that the quality remains very consistent across the album, with no songs standing out for the wrong reasons. But it makes picking individual tracks for closer scrutiny much more difficult, to the point where I question whether such an exercise is necessary, or even warranted. In many ways, if you like the track linked below, it’s fair to say that you’ll likely enjoy the entire album. If you don’t, you may wish to move on.
That said, I feel like it’s not a review of mine if I don’t dissect (pardon the pun) a few of the songs.
The first two tracks are entitled ‘Funeral Pyre’ and ‘Scarred Grandeur’, and together, they do provide a strong start to the record, of that there is no doubt. A ubiquitous acoustic guitar intro ushers the album into existence before it is joined by an electric guitar melody and then obliterated into a thousand pieces by the ensuing maelstrom of blackened death metal ferocity. The fast-picked tremolo riffs could cut glass at one hundred paces, whilst carrying with them an understated melody that allows a groovier feel to come to the fore in places. The inclusion of a subtle acoustic guitar in the background is a nice touch, whilst Kummerer does his best to summon the devil with his heinous rasps and growls.
‘Scarred Grandeur’ comes flying out of the space created by the final acoustic outro of the opener with barely contained venom. It is fast, powerful, and aggressive for the first couple of minutes until things slow to allow an acoustic guitar to join and, in so doing, increases the melody quota a little. A groovy, melodic mid-tempo passage takes over from the extreme first act, carrying with it a whiff of a power metal anthem.
Then there’s ‘A Shining Abyss’ which delivers more by way of melody than other tracks and is the closest to raising the hairs on my neck. There’s also a lovely atmospheric break around the halfway mark that I wish had been built upon some more. Nevertheless, after much consideration, I’m thinking that this might be my favourite song on ‘A Dying Wish’, although bearing in mind the consistency, this is perhaps a relatively moot point.
‘A Dying Wish’ concludes with the title track, which opens with an acoustic intro that is so similar to Dissection in their pomp that I had to check my CD collection behind me to make absolutely sure that it wasn’t a Dissection cover. It’s uncanny, right down to the chosen notes and the echoed effects on the acoustic guitar, to the distorted sound of the encroaching electric guitars that envelop the acoustic notes. From there,
If you’re looking for a band to fill the hole left by Dissection, then Thulcandra deserve to be at the top of your ‘to do’ list. They are a very good band and they do summon the spectre of Nötveidt and co. with their chosen brand of blackened death metal. And they do a very good job of it. I just wish that they offered a little more in terms of spine-tingling melody, or the occasional all-out anthemic blast. Not everyone will want them to do that, and I fully understand that. But as far as I’m concerned, it would make a very good album into an exceptional one that I’d probably not shut up about for months, maybe years. Whatever your personal opinion, it is fair to say that with ‘A Dying Wish’, Thulcandra have returned after six long years with a highly commendable album that many will thoroughly love.
The Score of Much Metal: 85%
Dream Theater – A View From The Top Of The World
Beast In Black – Dark Connection
Cradle Of Filth – Existence Is Futile
Seven Spires – Gods Of Debauchery
Sleep Token – This Place Will Become Your Tomb
Necrofier – Prophecies Of Eternal Darkness
Ex Deo – The Thirteen Years Of Nero
Enslaved – Caravans To The Outer Worlds
A Dying Planet – When The Skies Are Grey
At The Gates – The Nightmare Of Being
Fractal Universe – The Impassable Horizon
Eye Of Purgatory – The Lighthouse
Desaster – Churches Without Saints
Fear Factory – Aggression Continuum
Drift Into Black – Patterns Of Light
White Moth Black Butterfly – The Cost Of Dreaming – Album Review
Bloodbound – Creatures From The Dark Realm
Subterranean Masquerade – Mountain Fever
Astrakhan – A Slow Ride Towards Death
Ninkharsag – The Dread March Of Solemn Gods
Bodom After Midnight – Paint The Sky With Blood
Mother Of All – Age Of The Solipsist
Sweet Oblivion (Geoff Tate) – Relentless
Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined
Maestitium – Tale Of The Endless
Mourning Dawn – Dead End Euphoria
Liquid Tension Experiment – LTE3
Plague Weaver – Ascendant Blasphemy
Ephemerald – Between The Glimpses Of Hope
Humanity’s Last Breath – Välde
Evergrey – Escape Of The Phoenix
Temperance – Melodies Of Green And Blue EP
Demon King – The Final Tyranny EP
Angelus Apatrida – Angelus Apatrida
Tribulation – Where The Gloom Becomes Sound
Labyrinth – Welcome To The Absurd Circus
TDW – The Days The Clock Stopped
Need – Norchestrion: A Song For The End
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: