A Feast On Sorrow

rating icon 9 / 10

Track listing:

01. The Flood Came Rushing In
02. To Die Twice
03. A Stumble of Words
04. The Burden
05. Becoming the Ocean
06. A Feast on Sorrow
07. Peace
08. The Long Goodbye/Where Do The Memories Go?

Grief can be a terrible, pernicious thing. But it can also lead to moments of great revelation. Somewhere between the two lies "A Feast On Sorrow". Inspired by frontman Joe Nally's personal encounters with loss and its messy aftermath, this is an emotionally raw and creatively brave record that has the grim fingerprints of a global pandemic all over it. Recorded with GOJIRA's Joe Duplantier in a supervisory role, URNE's second full-length could have been a grueling endurance test, but despite its dark and challenging themes, "A Feast On Sorrow" is full of truly life-affirming heavy music. Which, presumably, is at least half the point.

For those who foolishly slept, URNE's debut album "Serpent & Spirit" came out in 2021. It was an astonishingly assured opening statement, constructed from an ingenious amalgam of post-metal bombast, classic metal melody, muscular thrash chug and artful, progressive bravado. Despite making things difficult for themselves by putting out such a miraculous debut, URNE seem to have overcome the tricky second album issue without too much discomfort. Arguably heavier, certainly more aggressive and several levels more intense than its predecessor, "A Feast On Sorrow" is ridiculously good and it will probably make you cry.

Where the debut was dominated by its elaborate epics, the follow-up flows evenly from bludgeoning start to devastating denouement. URNE have long had an innate sense of pace and tone that makes even their most straightforward metal songs resonate on some deep emotional level, but from the opening "The Flood Came Rushing In" onwards, each part of their second album is laser-focused on honoring the impact of the whole.

"A Stumble of Words" has a faint whiff of "Ghost Reveries"-era OPETH about it, but URNE have assimilated so many influences that the resemblance is fleeting. Over the course of 11 minutes, the British trio (and yes, it is mind-blowing that three people can make this much noise) dismantle and reconstruct their own crushing but agile formula, with Nally's heartfelt screams poking out through from a maze of riffs like shattered bone through skin. As it builds to a crescendo, a wonderfully melodic, old-school solo from guitarist Angus Neyra gives way to some infernal, machine-gun riffing and Nally is transformed into a snarling demon. And then more riffs happen. "A Stumble of Words" is an extraordinary piece of music, and it's in good company here. "The Burden" is a masterful demonstration of URNE's pugnacious rewiring of classic metal's fundamentals, with an absurd number of great riffs, black metal undercurrents and a strange, enigmatic ending.

"Becoming the Ocean" is an absolute colossus hewn from the finest dark, technical thrash, it tears along at a ruthless tempo, dense with desperation and riffs delivered directly from the gut. The title track is slower, nastier and in cahoots with the Devil, at least musically, but there is a vulnerability in Nally's clean vocals that tells a more pertinent tale. "A Feast On Sorrow" is an explosive and thrilling metal record from start to finish, but with a very human (and genuinely poetic) heart and soul.

It hurts right until the end. Monstrous, all-encompassing finale "The Long Goodbye/Where Do The Memories Go?" begins as an avowedly left-field and uncompromising affair, but steadily evolves toward the simplest of chord sequences, over which Nally sings a simple, somber melody. Cue another dazzling guitar solo from Neyra, a tender repeat of Nally's yearning refrain, an unresolved, strummed chord and everything fades to black. If there is a dry eye (or seat) in the house at this point, something has gone seriously awry. URNE have topped their brilliant debut and delivered the most sincerely heavy experience imaginable. If your heart can take it, I couldn't recommend it more highly.

Author: Dom Lawson
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