Article By: Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker ‡ Edited By: Leanne Ridgeway
SHUULAK is a Dutch contemporary, multi-genre metal band weaving outside-the-norm concepts with dynamically epic music.
Formed in 2014, the band’s members originally bonded over a shared, deep-rooted interest in alchemy and the occult. What better things could provide ideal subject matter for a heavy metal band, right? Recently, the quintet that serves as the core of SHUULAK – vocalist Bastiën Baron, drummer Angelo Tower, bassist Puck Wildschut, and guitarists Eve Laetitia (lead) and Ricardo Kroon (rhythm) – delivered their third EP, ‘Citrinitas‘.
In researching and learning more about the band, I found a wealth of interesting aspects to SHUULAK, including how they do their own recording, photography, video editing, and visual design. In complete control of their public presentation, they appear to be pursuing a higher calling and this is quite clear in the music they create. It is vibrant and multifaceted, clearly defined for exactly what it is, by the band themselves. They view each collection of recordings as steps in a quest of sorts, as they put it, each new offering is an advancement toward the alchemist’s Magnum Opus.
Preceded by 2018’s ‘Albedo‘ and 2017’s ‘Nigredo‘ EPs, ‘Citrinatas‘ is the latest transmutation of audio ingredients into a universal sonic solvent. The substance of these four songs takes power metal, replete with both melodic and aggressive elements, and fashions it into quite the enthralling listening experience. Plus, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the near-superb state of sound and production quality this latest compiling of cuts possess.
The fluid unfurling of opening number “The Chosen” quickly settles and reveals a high energy delivery of technical playing. Nothing is happenstance, an accident, or even left to chance in this type of composition, for clearly there is a standard sought and achieved. Tightly wound rhythms hold things in place, anchored by solid, consistent drumming and impossible to ignore guitar wizardry.
Each new track renders a slightly darker vibe at times, while other times yield an unexpected heaviness, sometimes momentary, other times extended. The second song, “Altar Of Gods“, provides an ideal example of these notions, with its Metallica-like intro soon giving way to a calmer, progressive musical flow. Driven once again by precision playing and tempered with ever-changing textural components in the music, the real highlight revealed is Bastiën‘s impressive vocals. Up, down, or sideways, there is no wavering or a half-hearted attempt at anything, for they soar and, when called for, taper in restraint.
I dare say the third and final song “Chaosborn” (fourth track and title cut “Citrinitas“, is a brief outro piece a little over one minute in length) is the stand out selection for me. Instantly declaring itself to be of a heavier quality musically, things rapidly get into a groove and invite you along for the ride. Pulsing with chugging intensity, there are numerous twists and turns navigated right nicely to keep the listener involved. All of the musicians have their moment in the spotlight within this stunning presentation and each more than just deliver, they excel.
Truth is, excellence is ideal in describing the outcome, the ‘Citrinitas‘ EP crafted by the music-wielding mages of SHUULAK. These five sonic scientists, sharing a binding ambition to possess aural enlightenment, engaged varied factors from the physical and unseen worlds. In their translation of these things into the fertile creations heard, enjoyed, and streaming here in this review, we are witnesses to a spellbinding, remarkable alchemizing indeed.