In 2021, Urne released Serpent & Spirit, an expansive record that borrowed from sludge, hardcore, and grunge in what felt like a brilliant, albeit slightly uneven album. At times it would seamlessly move between styles and other times the transitions were less subtle, bashing the listener from one genre to the next without warning. Well, they’re back with Gojira’s Joe Duplantier in the producer’s chair on their new album, A Feast on Sorrow, so it’s time to see if Urne have chosen a more cohesive route this time around, or if the potpourri approach is where they’ll continue to hang their hat. With a stalwart producer guiding them and with a new drummer behind the kit, there will no doubt be plenty to talk about, so let’s dig in.
One of the first noticeable nuances that Urne have decided to highlight on this album is the use of melody. “The Flood Came Rushing In'' sees it arrive near the midpoint as a way to carry the song beyond just its thrashy beginnings and the groove metal riffs that pepper most of the runtime. “A Feast On Sorrow'' sees the same idea executed along with some intense melodic soloing that helps bring some sonic variety and lightness to a song that’s otherwise rather dismal and heavy throughout. The melodicism, however, doesn’t stick around too long whenever it appears, but is like great scenes of dialog that punctuate an action movie to help the pacing, tone, and motivation of what we’re witnessing. Along with this - and more than likely due to Duplanier’s influence on this record - this album is intensely percussive with the drums taking a leading role in the production, and it serves the album well. Technical aspects aside, there is plenty to explore on the somewhat intangible side of things.
In some ways this album flirts more with a post-hardcore sound than their previous work, stepping into and out of heavy adjacent genres at will but with a smoother gait and a strong emotional center than we've heard from them before. “To Die Twice” is a great example of how Urne can blend their version of shrieked vocals with Meshuggah-like rhythmic chugs and still have a song that is led by the feeling instead of fancy fretwork. There’s a palpable atmosphere of longing that is present on most of the tracks and Urne do a great job of sustaining that idea on longer tracks like the aforementioned and the closer, “The Long Goodbye, Where Do the Memories Go?” That’s not to say that aggression isn’t part of the palette they’re painting with, as there are some real barnburners that pop up in spots like the center point of the album, “Becoming the Ocean”, as well as some hardcore influenced moments that show up in some of the longer compositions, a mood which leads off the record when “The Flood Came Rushing In” pops off in the beginning.
It’s fairly obvious that Urne are adept at a host of styles and generally do a great job of putting them together in ways that feel organic. With that in mind, however, this record can still give you whiplash as there are a host of ideas expressed from song to song. What helps to ground all of this is that the emotional core of the album stays present regardless of if there’s a one-and-a-half minute piano interlude or if it's an eleven-minute progressive composition. The variety does mostly work out on A Feast On Sorrow depending on the listener’s patience, but the move toward a more coherent sound across this album was smart even if there are still some moments that didn’t fully work, such as the opening to the final track.
Bottom Line: Urne have always been genre chameleons and that has served them well but A Feast On Sorrow is a move toward a more cohesive atmosphere while scaling back some of the abrupt stylistic change-ups. Multiple ideas express a narrow set of emotions, and while this does lead to some unintended thematic friction, the overall result is a rewarding one. Sticking the landing on an album as large as this that seeks to be lyrically and vocally emotive as well as technically diverse can be difficult but the effort here is valiant, if imperfect. These attempts could be seen as a lack of direction or simply refusing to arbitrarily place genre barriers, and while it may be tough to find a specific audience for this album, those who do lend an ear will doubtless be pleased with the journey. There’s no band quite like Urne.