One gentleman from Poland is responsible for Ars Magna Umbrae. The follow up to a 2017 EP “Through Lunar Gateways”, “Lunar Ascension” sends us crashing through worlds in a blackly ambient way. To some extent I am reminded of a violent version of Blut aus Nord, but Mr Ars Magna Umbrae stretches beyond the infinite chaos and war-torn spatial territories that are first suggested. There is temporary respite towards the end of “Through Thorns and Bones”, but normal violence is resumed on “Daughter of Endless Light”. This is the essence of atmospheric black metal.

I have read descriptions of this and with them words and phrases like occult, sinister, terrifying and “suffocatingly dense”. They all apply here. “Dying Sun Divination” takes us on the blackest of cosmic journeys where there is no comfort but deafening noises and echoes as the expanse is too big for any human to cope with. Yet the title track that follows takes a more measured and surprisingly controlled approach. The progression is slower and more familiar, if no less dark and sinister. Drums start to crash and guitars shriek darkly as the winds get up but they subside and we are drawn back to nihilistic reflection. The ending has a touch of sadness. Intense power returns as the raspings and fiery tones of “The Wanderer” lead us forward, before the world of Ars Magna Umbrae slows down on its orbit, and the sounds of menace appear. The blackness is always there, as is the intensity of Nightbringer and the aforementioned Blut aus Nord. “Lunar Ascension” treads its own path, although if I am being nit-picky, whilst I can kind of see the lunar part of it, albeit the moon is permanently obscured by black, I had the sense of being at the bottom of a cosmic void with no hope of ascension. “Fallen Star’s Light” and the subsequent instrumental interlude “A Whisper from the Void” place us unequivocally in cosmic territory and help to contextualise this bumpy and dark journey. There’s then an epic lead into “Chthonic Torches of Gnosis”, the nearest we get to a sombre hymn, but with the fiery outpourings that provide the sense of strength and struggle, which characterise this album. “Chthonic Torches of Gnosis” was the highlight of this album for me by virtue of its eerie and shadowy massiveness. “The Feast of Shades” continues the mood and hangs over us like a lead weight, bursting into violent terror to end this ferocious experience.

There are no distractions here. “Lunar Ascension” is a black but atmospheric journey and a thoroughly absorbing one.

(8/10 Andrew Doherty)