Anyone with a modicum of knowledge of metal history of the last 25 years, listening to this debut album by Kull will find himself thinking that he has come across a Bal-Sagoth clone band. The impression would be more than justified, except that this band has every right to faithfully reprise those epic and magniloquent sounds by being, in fact, the same Bal-Sagoth with a different vocalist instead of the declamatory founder Byron Roberts. Why the Maudling brothers (accompanied by the other historical member Alistair MacLatchy and Paul Jackson, who joined the band after the release of the last full length) did not use the original monicker is unknown, but it is likely that it may have something to do with rights over its use: the fact remains that this Exile can be legitimately considered both Kull‘s debut and Bal-Sagoth’s seventh album. That long but necessary premise having been made, it can be said that the work maintains in full the characteristics well known to those who love and those who hate the historic band, so the divisive effect remains as it is; what changes is that Tarkan Alp is a more traditional vocalist than Byron, in the sense that he interprets the songs with a more canonical and varied black metal vocalist approach, opting for the evocative recitative used continuously by his predecessor only in places. If you will, this tips the scales in favor of that minimum of discontinuity that gives Kull the status of a band in its own right, although it is undeniable that on rides like Vow of the Exiled, A Summoning to War or Aeolian Supremacy, not to mention the instrumental intro Imperial Dawn, it only takes a few notes to reveal to listeners who is behind Kull. Exile as a whole appears rougher (even too much so, hearing a track like Of Stone and Tears) than Bal-Sagoth’s releases of the new millennium, also aided by Alp’s trademark vocals and a lesser dominance of Jonny Maudling’s keyboards, although this remains the instrument that makes and breaks within the work; on the whole this makes it closer in impact to Starfire Burning upon the Ice-Veiled Throne of Ultima Thule than to The Power Cosmic, which an early Bal-Sagoth fan like yours truly cannot help but like. All in all, this Kull-branded first step appears to be anything but reheated soup, although the epic and evocative potential of Bal-Sagoth’s early work remains difficult to reproduce; there certainly remains the satisfaction of seeing these musicians back on track who still seem to have a desire to give audiences their epic, symphonic black metal inspired by Howard’s works.
2019 – Black Lion Records