What is about North America and atmospheric black(ish) metal? Wolves in the Throne Room, Agalloch, Panopticon are just a few examples of masters of this delicate art, and Canada’s Finnr’s Cave deserve to be held in the same high regard.

Their debut from 2010 ‘Wanderlust’ still gets regular plays from me, as does their second release ‘A Portrait Painted By The Sun’ from 2013 so I was pleased to be given their third album for review.

‘Elegy’ is set to be released later this month and coincides with the bands tenth anniversary.  Opening track ‘Willow’ gets underway with epic brooding melodies resulting from an uneasy symbiosis between guitar and cello, and while relaxing it also generates a certain tension. This is eased somewhat as clean harmonious vocals make an appearance. This reminded me that, if I recall correctly, Finnr’s Cave spurn the bass guitar, preferring the cello’s dulcet tones giving their music a different dimension and tone to many of their peers.

Title track ‘Elegy’ follows on with more melancholic melody and a haunting atmosphere courtesy of the cello, conjuring up images of Brontë’s windswept Yorkshires moors. The vocals soon arrive adding an extra dimension, delivering an emotional lament through heartfelt clean vocals.

A door creaks heralding the arrival of ‘Strange Sun’, before launching into a more aggressive track with a faster pace and harsher vocals. There are many layers to the track with many subtleties which only become apparent after several listens. This is a diverse track with icy cold riffs sitting comfortably alongside lush soundscapes, all augmented by tormented growls.

A flute provides the intro to ‘Empty City’ before it is joined by contemplative guitar and cello pieces. Undecipherable growls disturb the tranquillity before a piano piece guides the track to its wistful close.

The majesty of natural world is mused over during ‘Earthsong’, a track with an introspective feel created by epic melodies rolling by. A few bars on piano augur the arrival of ‘Lacuna’ before fretful ruminations are conjured upon by grainy guitars, reverent cello textures and occasional harsh vocals.

The album is brought to a close with the epic ‘A Sky Of Violet And Pearl’. Clocking in at over eight minutes of intricate, atmospheric melodies with the vocal line fading back a little and almost taking the role of another instrument, this is a fitting culmination of the album. As the track draws on, the intensity fades away as the preceding music concedes to haunting piano work which brings the album to a close.

This album is a complex atmospheric masterpiece that is perfect for moments of introspection, self reflection and contemplation. I first heard it while on the desolate Northumbria coast, with crashing waves and howling winds as company, and this album was the perfect soundtrack with its undeniable bleakness balanced with pervading sense of optimism.

(9/10 Andy Pountney)