Surma is a collaboration between Czech vocalist Viktorie Surmová (Bohemian Metal Rhapsody) and Faroese vocalist/guitarist Heri Joensen (Týr). Their debut album, The Light Within, was released on Metal Blade Records in late 2020. The band’s sound will instantly appeal to fans of symphonic metal, particularly the Dutch sound of the early 2000s. There are also moments that evoke the Scandinavian symphonic acts, but overall, Surma leans more towards the gothic and progressive side of the style, as opposed to a more folk-tinged sound. So much so that tracks like “Downfall” and “Until It Rains Again” are more comparable to bands like Amorphis or Tristania, as opposed to bombastically symphonic bands like Epica or After Forever. Also, in a gothic power-move that would make Lydia Deetz blush, all their lyrics are inspired by sculptures from around the world.
But mostly the album is characterized by songs like “Fire and Wind” and “ Lost to Time,” short-but-sturdy compositions filled with lush, layered vocals, and tightly-packed melodic riffs and solos. Combine the rock n’ roll sensibilities of Within Temptation with the earthiness of Midnattsol, and you wouldn’t be too far off from where Surma has landed on their strong debut.
Surmová is the main vocalist through most of the album, but it’s the intensely contrasting moments with Joensen that stand out the most vocally. “The City of Winds” rocks with an orchestral swing, with Joensen delivering a strong mid-track soliloquy, while the unsurprisingly-heavy “Cages of Rage” finds the 2 trading lines in an epic pre-chorus. The peak of The Light Within arrives with the penultimate track, the afore-mentioned “Lost to Time,” where Surmová and Joensen combine all their best moves into the album’s most memorable song.
If you’re fan of symphonic metal, The Light Within is very easy to get into, but it got repeated listens from me because it takes chances where they’re needed. Most symphonic bands choose their lane within the style and stay there. Surma’s extra touches go a long way to making the album a more varied experience. It’s an extremely welcome addition to a subgenre that had become slightly paint-by-numbers.
Surma: Heri Joensen (left) and Viktorie Surmová (right)
Photo Courtesy of Metal Blade Records
Surma will be featured in an upcoming Zombitrol At Home article. You can streamThe Light Within in full below.