It’s far too simplistic to label such a rich, complex and emotionally driven album as this from the outset with a tag or casually applied subgenre label. So it might be better to sidestep any analysis of purpose at this stage by kicking off this review with a name check for the obvious band that Eigenlicht brings to mind. Because the musical direction of this Olympia, Washington-based band (there’s a clue there) is not immediately obvious unless you look really hard at the cover (flaming sword, hilt covered by a burning silk veil – and even that’s very ambiguous and possibly a reference to a track on their last album) or plough well into this fog-shrouded, spiritually-laden pilgrimage. What’s more I, Voidhanger is not the natural home for any band to be superficially pissing about with the Wolves In The Throne Room’s Cascadian formula so it’s fair to say there is something far deeper and complex going on here. WITTR has pretty much set a benchmark for the kind of high-intensity, arboreal shoegaze that works so well and has so often been imitated. By comparison, Eigenlicht (from the same state – there’s obviously something in the water) cranks things up – as befits its place on this label – to a refreshingly darker and more foreboding level that’s initially hard to grapple with. Because the band is in no hurry to ram home its purpose until it’s got you right where it wants you. So much so that when things do click into place, it makes the discovery of the beating heart of Self-Annihilating Consciousness like pulling back the veil onto another world.
If this is pagan black metal in any form then it’s very much in keeping with the trend that I’ve seen over recent years of bands picking up the baton on the sub-genre’s forebears – steeping the listener in atmosphere of a dark, imagined past rather than lobbing in a few flutes or organs (although both are present here). In fact, Self-Annihilating Consciousness is more in keeping with the kind of black metal Zen mastery we’ve become so used to seeing coming out of Iceland. Because this is also a giant leap forward from Eigenlicht’s raw and vicious Sacral Regicide demo which reared its rusty sceptre and mud-spattered cowl back in 2015 with a 23 minute taste of what was to come. This full-length fleshes out the theme like a gleaming sword rising in a grey and windswept Albion.
This time Eigenlicht takes deep, emotionally torn doom and second wave black metal and plunges it together with soaring Cascadian tremolo riffs – as well as some perfectly pitched ecclesiastic organ sounds. The band seamlessly picks at these and other influences to make the pagan-tinged sound buried at its core feel like a freshly-opened vintage brew – at times black metal of the cavernous and mournful variety, at others the ethereal hooks of Emperor but also often steeped in the chaotic discord more often seen in the occult-driven end of the scale, with their lengthy but often spellbinding metaphysical explorations. But, as with its Washington state neighbour, Eigenlicht also packs a punch just when you need it with its tumultuous riffage of epic proportions.
More than once across its four 10-minute-plus tracks Eigenlicht kicks off with something that sounds almost bestial or else something that deceptively promises to be more straight from the black or doom metal handbooks. And that is all definitely integral to the band’s sound rather than a red herring – early 90s production values abound in here right down to the indecipherable vocal shrieks that constantly threaten to get lost in the mix and the organ synths that occasionally gate crash the party. Once you’ve done the first spin and you feel like you’ve just about got your bearings within the intro and the opening track (and the WITTR finale), second track Labrys plunges into a pounding lesson in mist-drenched prehistorical gloom that ebbs back and forth into the fringes of bands like Schammasch and Iceland’s Almyrkvi. And even then the chaos-battling tremolo of the following track initially throws you off your axis again – progressive and exploratory before plunging headlong once again into a festival of time-swept melody later in the track. Finale Berserker does what it says on the tin and takes the album to an incredible close with a soaring 11 minute epic rite of that makes you wonder what these guys have been taking.
A journey into the world of Eigenlicht is a journey deep and dark emotions all guided by a higher purpose – the band’s name implies a self-generating light. This is, at times, an intoxicating album capable of producing shivers similar to those inflicted by the gods of black metal exploration themselves Spectral Lore. An almost religious exploration that offers plenty for the casual and patient listener and even more to those that can find their own emotions and spiritual longings reflected back at them.
(8.5/10 Reverend Darkstanley)