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Runemagick : Into Desolate Realms

Swedish veterans Runemagick's cleaner, milder and less intense stance may not be bad, but it doesn't hit the heights of their earlier work, either.

Swedish Death/Doom act Runemagick have been around for a long time now. Personally, I thought they'd called it a day after 'Dawn Of The End', and that they went out on a good note with that in mind. However, over a decade later they returned with the full-length 'Evoked From Abysmal Sleep', and have now released 'Into Desolate Realms' too, so it seems they have no intention of drawing a line under their musical journey.

When a band makes a decision to return after ten years, it's always interesting to me to try and discover just why they've made the choice to do so. I mean, Runemagick had a good run and released some very solid, filthy Death/Doom releases over the years so there's no real need to come back and do it all again. If this were a more mainstream/popular style of music then it could be intimated that they're back for money, but it's not. Therefore, I can only reach the conclusion that Runemagick felt they had something new to offer.

Admittedly, I've not listened to 'Evoked From Abysmal Sleep' at the time of writing this review so I can't comment on it, although the feedback across the internet seems to be fairly aligned in the sense that there's nothing to write home about on it. Having listened to 'Into Desolate Realms', my first impressions on Runemagick's return from their hiatus are not too dissimilar from the above. I just don't know what it was that they thought they could contribute this time around that they hadn't already given.

In the past, it was the filthy style and atmosphere of Runemagick that I personally enjoyed. Scandinavia's answer to diSEMBOWELMENT, albeit perhaps a tad more Death Metal inclined. You knew what you were getting with the likes of 'Darkness Death Doom' and 'The Supreme Force Of Eternity', and it was very enjoyable if you like the rougher music with lesser production, which is right up my alley. Having listened to the more polished 'Into Desolate Realms', I can't help feeling that Runemagick have really missed a trick by changing things to this extent.

Musically, they've changed a bit since the 'old days' but it's the production that sours this album for me. I think it's fair to say that Runemagick definitely lean more toward Doom Metal than Death Metal nowadays, which you won't find me complaining about. They still play with the same aggressive vocals, brooding riffs, and overall power but it's considerably lessened in its effect by the production. For this type of music to work for me, I need it to be fuzzier and more intense, if that makes sense. Older Runemagick was laden with bursts of Death Metal, solos, and an all-encompassing hatred that worked marvellously. The current Runemagick is lacking in those bursts, and when that's fused with a better production, I can't help feeling that they sound a little bit lost with what they're trying to achieve.

For clarity, I don't think it's possible for a band like Runemagick to make bad Death/Doom so please don't have the wrong impression here. At the very least, the Swedes will always make decent Death/Doom - i.e. nothing that will cause you pain to listen to. However, it's just a bit too forced, this 'Into Desolate Realms' musical journey, almost like it's been restricted. Nothing really sounds particularly captivating on the album, and even the riffs seem less menacing than usual, which I again blame the improved production for. I just don't see how a dark, brooding style of music can walk hand in hand with a more polished production, and this album does nothing to make me think otherwise. For example, it's a crying shame that a track like 'In The Sign Of The Dragon Star' wasn't played in a more foreboding atmosphere because I loved the riffs on it but the production doesn't do it any favours whatsoever. It's not the only track on here with excellent riffs, either: 'After The Sepulchral Lava' is another one I enjoyed in that respect. However, each one of these positives is countered by a stronger negative, I'm afraid.

The album is not soul-destroying. It's not cancerous. However, it's not brilliant either, and it's not as good as their earlier work. The best way to describe 'Into Desolate Realms' is that it's very middle of the road material because of the production. The potential for Runemagick to roll back the clock will always be there so never say never, but for the present time, I can't say I'm particularly pleased with where they're at. Even for Doom Metal, the music here is lacking in spontaneity, and it's far too clean for my liking too, particularly on the track entitled 'Sorceress Reburned'. I can't fault the vocals or musicianship but the album doesn't have enough to keep my attention so I can't recommend it.

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Reviewer's rating: 6/10


Tracklist :
1. Remnants Of The Old
2. Into Desolate Realms
3. The Opening Of Dead Gates
4. Sorceress Reburned
5. Decay Is Nothing
6. In The Sign Of The Dragon Star
7. Necromancer Of The Red Sun
8. After The Sepulchral Lava
9. Requiem Beyond The Stars
10. Wolves Of Nocturnal Light
11. Ash And Silence

Duration : Approx. 71 minutes

Visit the Runemagick bandpage.

Reviewed on 2020-02-24 by Ian Morrissey
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