Smoulder have returned with a slightly lengthy EP release, consisting of a few new tracks and what seems to be some older demos. As always, the band successfully craft a thrilling doom metal atmosphere with some occasionally spirited solo offerings, but I’m not hearing anything from Smoulder that I haven’t heard before. Proggy bits do manage to spice up the listen, but there’s a little bit of odd effect coming from frontwoman Sarah Ann. I notice what feels like a little bit of a struggle in her vocals, I’m not sure if that’s the way she normally sounds or perhaps this was recorded during a bad portion in her life and came off therapeutic. At any rate, the album’s title track and “Cage Of Mirrors” seem to showcase the full potency of this proggy doom act.
Also enclosed with this album is The Sword Woman Demo which was recorded in 2018. I can actually tell a major difference in Ann’s vocals here as well, it feels like there’s more passion in them and far less struggle, strain or whatever was negatively affecting her during those sessions. Although the demo is quite a bit lower than Dream Quest Ends, I still think it’s inclusion was well worth it and the songs are a bit more straight-forward and rocking than the atmospheric meanderings of the main disc. “Voyage Of The Sun Chaser” is yet another great offering as the prog mixes heavily what can almost be considered more of a heavy metal vibe than just doom. Once again, Ann also sounds energized here and she’s got some real firepower. There’s even a few vocal bites here and there, showing that she was really into it at this stage in the game. Completing it all with a re-imagined Nightmare cover of “The Ring Is Gone” now called “The Queen Is Gone” you can see why the band elevated to the heights that they did.
Clearly this is fine doom metal, but I can’t really say that I’ve loved the opening EP as much as I did the demo. At any rate, fans will be glad to know that they can at least now get their hands on the demo which was actually well worth checking out.