Black metal, more than any other genre, has produced some of the finest hybridisations of sub-genres resulting in some of the most intelligent, beguiling and intrinsically fascinating albums. I am very much of the school that the setting and mood is critical for listening to certain types of music and the first time I heard this album I was sat in heavy traffic in pouring rain, at night on a motorway and to me that felt right as the album shrouded me from the bedlam outside my vehicle though repeated listens enabled me to concentrate more on the album of course.
This Italian outfit whilst not recording or writing songs that are in any way especially ground-breaking, what they do offer however is atmosphere, poignancy and unwavering intensity throughout the release. “Astral Bliss” opens the albums and structurally the bands song writing is black metal as the track blazes out like a pack of rabid wolves initially complete with some of the most throat slashing vocals I’ve heard this year. Typically the song, and the album overall, has fluxing tempo dynamics that create fluidised mood changes hinting at bands like Agalloch, Fen and Alcest especially the inherent sadness of melodies.
“Life Is Poison” starts quite soporifically, almost trippy with a relaxed melody only for it to be shattered by the ebonised riffing that follows alongside those acid gargling vocals. It is this switching and cohesive transformations in style that make this release so engaging as a psychedelic quality is also aired with the songs expansive creativity. “Love Is Poison” links in nicely and has that adroit post rock cleanliness and serene hypnotic riffing to start with before the song intensifies as the song manages to retain an aura of tranquillity despite the rancorous vocal delivery.
The colossal “Immense As The Universe” begins with a poignant speech by Professor Stephen Hawking and completely suits the music that surrounds his words before a bellowing roar lingers and the song reveals a sombre riff and moody pace. The song is emotionally charged favouring a post rock stance than extreme blackness, again similar to acts like Alcest the song pirouettes its guitar melodies around savage vocals which subtly change to a whisper. The song is opulent, embellished with layers of musicality but centrally focused around a single core riff whilst a panoply of guitar hooks are added to it. The abrupt change to sombre semi acoustic guitar is excellent and serves to introduce the next phase of the track which is dreamlike with a distant clean vocal line added. Continuing the similarly named titles “Immense As The Ocean” starts beautifully with a tranquil intro section that is ultra-quiet and leads into an exquisite guitar melody that is doleful especially when the guitar hook is added to it; tearful and heartrending. The songs innate melancholy is bewitching but captivating and is my favourite of the album especially as it switches riffs but preserving that sweeping sense of tragedy.
There are some sublimely classy moments on this album and whilst my comments about the band not breaking new ground may seem negative this is a superb listen and any fan of the post black metal scene will adore this album.
(8.5/10 Martin Harris)