Nicolas Flamel would be proud.
-- Shuulak --
Review written by Stijn "Metal Shredder" Daneels.
[METAL SHREDDER REPORTING]
Shuulak is a band that I discovered in 2018 when they contacted me to check out their 2018 maxi-single “Albedo,” which I gave a good and enjoyable listen. Just before the 2020 holidays, Shuulak’s frontman Bastiën contacted me again to review their new EP “Rubedo.” And now that we’re well past the Christmas season, it’s time to give their latest release a good hard shred!
“Rubedo” is the third EP from the Dutch heavy metal band Shuulak and is an independent release. The EP begins with “Ancient Sins,” a song with galloping drums, melodic guitars and operatic vocals and exhaling a dark magical atmosphere. Those same vibes continue in the following track, “Scourge of Aeons,” with its hypnotizing riffs and chants, particularly in the song’s middle part.
Next comes the title track, “Rubedo,” a brooding monologue of the alchemist who has finally created his life’s work and is ready to move on. And so we move on to both parts of “The Azoth.” Part 1 mainly features harsh and heavy riffs and very upbeat Iron Maiden like beats during its middle section while Part 2 is a gentle ballad with whispering female vocals and relaxing guitars and violins.
I’d describe Shuulak’s sound as Judas Priest, especially when it comes to the guitar melodies and overall song structure, but with slower rhythms and a more mysterious and sinister atmosphere with singer Bastiën having a seductive, charismatic voice of an alchemist who’s passionately performing his experiments. The guitar solos are beautiful and the whole thing is tightly written and well paced, just like the old-school acts Shuulak takes inspiration from. Nothing more, but certainly nothing less.
The main theme throughout Shuulak’s discography is alchemy and the pathway to the philosopher’s stone. “Rubedo” forms the fourth and final phase in this alchemic process with their earlier releases, chronologically “Nigredo,” “Albedo” and “Citrinitas” being the three earlier parts.
Another theme featured in “Rubedo” is the concept of rebirth and afterlife, which is also featured on Rubedo’s cover art, depicting a woman lying on an altar decorated with alchemic symbols and who’s soul is flying out of her body. Nice artwork overall and well-fitting for Shuulak’s dark, slightly macabre setting.
[SHARPEST SHREDS & BLUNTEST BLADES]
My top pick go to “The Azoth I,” a tune that drips with atmosphere and which shows off Shuulak’s Judas Priest and Iron Maiden influences beautifully. Also “Ancient Sins” and “Scourge of Aeons” deserve to be mentioned here for they are both very catchy songs.
I did feel that this EP was a bit too short for my tastes so I hope Shuulak will finally follow up this four-part series with a full length release. I’m also quite curious to see whether they’ll continue with the alchemic themes or move on to something else. Maybe a series of songs about Tarot cards, who knows, but in the meantime Shuulak deserves…
8 philosopher’s stones out of 10. With this fourth and final part of their tetralogy, Shuulak clearly show themselves as a very enjoyable and highly atmospheric heavy metal act that’s well worth checking out if you enjoy the likes of Judas Priest or Iron Maiden. Check out “Ancient Sins.”