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A photo of the album cover of Dreamkiller by Sumerlands

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Album Review: SUMERLANDS Dreamkiller

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It took precisely one album, their 2016 self-titled debut, for Sumerlands to tap into the vein that made the heavy metal hey-day so good and drain enough essence to completely recreate it. No starry-eyed homages here, oh no; Sumerlands went straight to the source and delivered a hearty spoonful of doom-infused good stuff.

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Nearly six years on from that, we find ourselves staring down the barrel of Sumerlands' second go at reaching that promised land, this time with new vocalist Brendan Radigan of Magic Circle and Stone Dagger filling the rather large shoes of the departing Swanson. So, what's different? There's a much less doom-influenced sound here compared to their previous album, although it is certainly present. That gives way to something edging a little closer to power metal which is only amplified by the ridiculously powerful pipes of Radigan; his upper octaves are close to frightening at times. You only need a few seconds of the opening track "Twilight Points The Way," with its galloping drumline and Hammerfall-meets-Black-Sabbath sensibilities to see where the sound has begun to change, but not let go of what it was built upon.

After that, the beefy hooks and ethereal vocals just keep coming, laying out for display the clear influences Sumerlands have had here; "Heavens Above" opens with a riff that sounds forty years out of time but in the best possible way, before title track "Dreamkiller" lays down a ferocious blend of charging drums and intense solos that channels Judas Priest all ways up. Hell, "Night Ride" could have been a Rainbow deep cut; softening the blows long enough to provide a catchy little number that veers dangerously close to a ballad but stops just short.

The doom metal that Sumerlands' debut was woven from rears its head proper in "The Savior's Lie", a positively sludgy track compared to everything else on offer here with distortion turned up to max. The fact it follows on from the synth-laden AOR special "Force of a Storm" is a slight tonal whiplash, to say the least, but given that there are still plenty of flashes of that grunginess peppered throughout it doesn't feel too out of place.

All in all, if you're looking for a dose of heavy metal with talent at every position, Sumerlands have got the job done with Dreamkiller. Unflinchingly old school and packed with killer riffs, you'd have a tough time picking this out of a line-up of music from the actual time period it's succeeding at emulating. If you weren't a fan of the style before, another forty-ish minutes of it isn't likely to swing you – even with the change in aesthetic of it all – but the diehards are getting a meaty slab of their favorite treat and anyone with a passing interest will find something here that gets their head nodding. It's bold, big fun that begins a running streak of what is hopefully much more to come from Sumerlands in the future.

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