With moons and skies and stars and cosmic whales featuring in the titles, there’s more than a suggestion of a celestial journey about this album. Vrath, the person at the centre of this symphonic ambient black metal project from France, has been busy with two eps, a split and now a second full album release since 2016.
“Night Sky Above the Deserts” is as evocative as it sounds, and stands alone as a fine instrumental piece. As often is the case with intros, it suffers from an obvious disconnection with the main event. Whistling symphonic sounds strike up as Vrath growls and penetrates our world with foggy, insistent blackness. What worlds or atmospheres are being depicted in this “See the End of the Worlds” is not clear to me. The title track starts as if in space. I imagine chunks of rock floating by. This is soon transcended by the fury of black metal along with the symphonic ring. I like the harshness and intensity. It breaks off into an Enslaved like section. Above all the track “Fallen Moon” has menacing vigour and energy, even if ultimately it doesn’t go anywhere. The furious tone continues into “Under the Stars”. Again I can’t fault the fire and intensity, and the instrumentals and vocals all head off in the same dark direction, but it doesn’t make any statements for me other than being another piece of heavy and forceful black metal. Maybe that’s all I should be expecting.
A scream prefixes the next symphonic furyfest “I’m Dying Again”. I read the word “epic” as a description of Onirism’s style, and I wouldn’t argue with that, on the basis that it is explosive. There’s a kind of similarity with early Burzum in the raw black metal style. What is missing is the reflection, which you might expect of an overtly celestially-themed work like this. There is a short passage to break up the chaos in “The Endless Ride of Heavens” and I welcomed that, but I wasn’t getting much sense of purpose out of all this. As I had enjoyed “Night Sky Above the Deserts” earlier, so too I enjoyed “summoned by the Astral Side”, an imaginative instrumental romp with suggestions of an exotic Eastern land. Dark symphonic sounds lead us into “When Titans Awakes” (sic) but this is soon overtaken by growly passages of fire but not in a way that took us into new territories. By contrast “The Cosmic Whale” starts in wavy ambience but true to form, the explosion occurs and the wavy ambience is replaced by a wave of tempestuous symphonic black metal. The track develops symphonic metal melancholy and features a spoken/pagan section. The problem I had here was matching the development of the track with any sort of theme, and accordingly I found myself listening to a series of movements instead of getting wrapped up in it. The next interlude “Meteor Interlude” has far more life and character. For me the interludes far outweigh the rest of “Fallen Moon” in terms of appealing to my senses. “The Celestial Calling”, which ends the album, starts with typical dreamy ambience, before turning over to fire. Now the symphonic strain runs through it and there is an epically melancholic guitar line. Finally there is integration between the celestial world and the world of fire, instead of it being one or the other. This quality of integration had been missing, making it difficult to appreciate this celestial world until now.
Strangely, given the clarity of the titles, I felt that this album lacked definition. Musically, it is intense, and there is a mix of ambient sounds and furious black metal. The problem for me was that the two are largely separated with an artificial wall between them. The album has power, but only rarely did I feel the portrayal of the “Fallen Moon”, the celestial journey or any of the atmospheres that its titles suggested.
(6/10 Andrew Doherty)