So what’s your definition of symphonic black metal? Dimmu Borgir? Cradle Of Filth in their more extravagant moments? Well for me my favourite style is this incarnation of Australian mastermind Dis Pater, though of course being the man of musical vision that he is there is atmospheric and ambient passages in there. This is Midnight Odyssey’s first new album since 2015, although of course Dis Pater did release the excellent 2018 electronic project Death Comes Crawling reviewed in these hallowed pages at the time.
This though is Midnight Odyssey. Now if you’ve never heard them don’t come expecting riotous bestial riffing and aggression. This is about class, sumptuous keyboards and varied vocals from harsh to clean, with a spine that is inescapably black metal but the guitars often beneath that rolling, roiling surface.
I’m not going to do a track by track breakdown of this 71 minute epic journey as, again in line with a symphony they are more parts, movements, of the whole. An exploration of the cosmic, of fallen gods, banishment and exile and resentment. It opens with spaced out keyboards, reaching into the void. A presence, awe inspiring, intrudes as the music swells with clean choral vocals. Then the pace and the rumbling semi riff pushes in with harsh, hollow sounding vocals. This is such a vast sound, so skilfully raised. Fans of bands like Druadan Forest, Mark 1 Mortiiis and so on looking for something more cosmic, epic and grandiose. Heck even Hawkwind fans in search of space may find a place here. The sweeping, deep well of emotion that comes with clean choral vocals just fills my heart, the softer passages glow with wonder.
This journey is long but strangely perhaps a little less meandering than some of Midnight Odyssey. The harder driving passages are the engine that provide the light for those quiet movements where the darkness begins to glisten with its own light, its own soul. To quote Di Pater “In the darkest caves, in the deepest parts of the ocean there are lights which are produced by organisms with no need for the sun… To survive you have to create your own light.”
There is a gravitas to this work. The vocals during ‘A Storm Before A Fiery Dawn’ feel part worship, part command. A touch of the preacher of some long forgotten cult, early VNV Nation turned black metal. Parts have an almost narrated feel but never let go of the musicality.
The final movement, ‘Pillars In The Sky’ is the compassion in the dark, the love of the exiled for each other. Beautiful, gentle and with aching vocals and perfect lyrics it leaves us with some hope for the lost. Gone but not forgotten.
Flowing, restless waves of keyboards and deep, deep veins of melody. Symphonic structures and a soul with a vast strength as the power rises. An almost subliminal knowledge that, despite this rich clothing there is black metal ingrained in its soul. That is the beauty of Midnight Odyssey in this first part of a prospective trilogy, and the idiosyncratic talent of Dis Pater.
Whether your taste is black metal, goth, darkwave prog there is a gem here that might pull you in. It leads you and shows you the beauty in the places the gods despise. It has an exile’s sense of hope and the betrayed’s sense of anger. Philosophical, sensitive and prone to bouts of anger, Dis Pater continues to enthral me.