Genre: Extreme Gothic Metal
Record Label: Independent
Release Date: June 26, 2021
Album length: 25 Minutes
Who should listen: fans of Cradle of Filth, Galadriel , Scarlet Oath (opens new window)
After a three-year hiatus, The Beckoning is back with a four-song EP, Sanctuary. Labeling themselves (opens new window) an “extreme Gothic Metal band from Canada that merges elements of Extreme Metal, Goth Rock and Progressive Rock”, The Beckoning combines in Sanctuary “beautiful darkness with savage aggression.” This short collection of songs is fun to listen to and a solid return from The Beckoning’s hiatus to pick up where they left off.
Let’s start with the sound. True to their own billing, they combine elements of numerous styles of metal and rock. This variety provides a freshness that one-genre bands can struggle to produce. The variation of styles and sounds gives more meaning to the lyrics by providing a way to emphasize certain parts of the song and highlight the lyrics. This is especially important for The Beckoning as their lyrics tend to tell stories and are complex in nature. When you are telling stories with your music, you want the story to get heard, so varying tones, styles, rhythms, and vocals are an excellent way to get your story heard.
This EP, with only four songs, doesn’t have much time to tell stories (more on that later), but the music starts hard, then lets up for soft female vocals, then gets hard again for the screeching black metal screams. The entire album pretty much goes like this: hard, soft, fast, slow, hard, slow, fast, soft. Repeat. For listeners who like variety and enjoy well-played music, this EP will tickle your ears ever so nicely. For listeners who want hard, driving music, Sanctuary might be disappointing. It has moments like that, but they aren’t sustained for long.
Looking over my notes on this EP, I see comments like “after the softer intro it turns into all-out black metal goodness” (Unified Harlotry) and “female sung vocals to start before turning into a more shrieking black metal” (In Darkness). I have similar notes for every song, so hopefully, you get the picture: Sanctuary is all over the map musically - and this is a good thing!
Lyrically, Sanctuary is rooted in the Bible and deals a lot with the believers' struggle against sin and darkness both within ourselves and within the culture. Recognizing that Jesus is the only Way, The Beckoning cries out to Him for salvation and redemption from the sin within and without.
Let me look more closely at the third track, In Darkness, the lyric video of which is available here (opens new window), where we also learn in the comments that no, The Beckoning does not do weddings...because they are scattered across Canada. (YouTube comments for the win!)
In my unscientific analysis of the lyrics, I’d say they are referencing (St.) John of the Cross’ Dark Night of the Soul, which, incidentally, is nifty because The Beckoning labels themselves as coming from Saint John, New Brunswick. There is weariness in the darkness when you don’t sense God’s presence.
In weariness, you are my rest
Be merciful to me
Cast out the Accuser
Cast out the Deceiver
The other song I’d like to look at more closely is the closing track because it sums up the main themes of the EP. An epic track, the music of Shrouded Divinity matches the lyrics to help tell its story of a longing for freedom from the demonic deceptions of false religion.
In the interlude, there is the buzzing of flies before talking (yes, talking, but with distortion, it sounds daaaaaaark) about the lord of the flies, Beelzebul. I can’t remember hearing the buzzing of flies in a song before, so that’s creative. After the darkly distorted talking comes sung female vocals, though not in the gothic style we heard earlier in the album. Musically this becomes much more straightforward metal, and we are treated to an epic close to an epic song.
Concealed in mystery
Source of reality
True light of tranquility
Behold the ancient sacrifice
The face of God in flesh
Nailed to a bloodied cross
That souls may find their rest
The biggest strengths of this album are A) the musical variety and creativity and B) the lyrical depth. The Beckoning does an excellent job of marrying their music with their lyrics to tell stories. I can’t stress that enough! As musicians, they get that music shouldn’t just go over the top of lyrics (or vice versa), but they should work together as a complete union. The Beckoning does that in Sanctuary.
The weakness of this album is that it is too short. I don’t mean it’s too short like “this was so awesome I wanted it to keep going” too short, but it’s too short to really build the whole epic story-ness of the album. With another three or four songs this album would have felt like a full meal deal. As it is, it feels more like an appetizer. Appetizers aren’t bad, of course, but they aren’t filling. So while Sanctuary is a solid album it doesn’t leave me feeling fully satisfied. I walk away from this album thinking it’s good (because it is), but I don’t think it’s going to stick in my mind as being a truly great album.
Still, the EP is a good one, and if you are into creative metal or if you are a believer who struggles with sin, this is definitely worth listening to be encouraged and edified.
Shrouded Divinity: this track, as noted in the review, is epic, creative, and closes out the EP in a very sweet way. If you love Jesus, you’ll love the ending of this song!