Sede Vacante – Conium (Scarlet Records)

Wednesday, 19th October 2022
Rating: 8.5 / 10

Always a hotbed for symphonic, gothic-influenced heavy metal, European band Sede Vacante since 2015 has been putting their stamp on those styles. With band members assembled across Finland and Greece, the latest line-up moves into second album Conium confident, the quartet digging deeper into the crevices of songwriting and performances to create much more catchy hooks/choruses for those key standout moments.

Main composer Michael Tiko possesses requisite skills in the multi-faceted sound for the group – plus the tools of guitar and synths to get the job done through diverse approaches that can be commercial sounding one track, then much more powerful, darker, or bombastic the next. After the “Furia” intro, the mid-tempo “Mistaken” glides across in that sultry swinging manner, proper double kick/fill mechanics as well as the building low-register vocal harmonies adding to the chugging main chords – while the follow-up “Dead New World” showcases EDM, cyber, and orchestration keyboard swirls next to the slightly heavier stunted guitar foundation. The smaller details pay haunting dividends in a cultural context – check out “Raindrops” in this regard, the openness of drumming next to the softer keyboard / guitar transitions leading to a massive, melodic payoff during the instrumental/ chorus passages – where vocalist Stephanie Mazor reaches some upper-level melodies/screams to convey that deeper emotional cognition that mirrors the arrangement. Intertwining influences from Within Temptation to Epica, Nightwish to Lacuna Coil, the ability to become dynamic at a moment’s notice allows for a refreshing listening experience on each successive pass – combining heads down groove-like gothic metal and progressive chugs/tempo transitions that keep “The Bride” a second half stunner. The choice of reinterpreting a classic Rolling Stones song to make things even more ambient, darker, and mysterious also could put Sede Vacante on the map – “Paint in Black” already in the classic rock annals, the majestic soothing to harmony vocals transfixing next to the doomy guitars, keyboards, and measured rhythm section parts.

Already hard at work on a third album that will be conceptual in nature (Dante Alighieri’s ‘Inferno’ the focal point), Sede Vacante through Conium properly position themselves as emerging heavyweights in a scene primed for another memorable, symphonic/gothic metal standout.

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