Can black metal be romantic? Dismalimerence form Chicago, Illinois, are saying that it can and they are doing a pretty good job at showing us how. From the band name to the album’s subject, the artwork and the music, their debut album Tome:1 has romanticism written all over it. Unusual? Surprising? Only to the uninitiated. Atmospheric black metal, in general, is very romantic.

By romantic, of course, I do not mean kitschy or cheap, but rather showing a closeness to art from the Romantic era and sharing ideals popular during romanticism. That might, for example, be a focus on emotions, a preference for the past over modernity, a strong partiality for nature compared to man-made surroundings.

Dismalimerence and Tome:1 test positive for all of the above. The band name is put together out of two words, dismal and limerence, the latter being a term for a near-obsessive form of romantic love. Unrequited love is a common subject in literature from the Romantic era. The most famous piece of literature of that category would be Geothe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther.

The cover art for Tome:1, depicting a foggy mountain landscape with a lone figure in it, shares a lot of features with Romantic paintings. It has, of course, also something that those paintings lack, namely a bit of black metal sinisterness in the form of blood visible on a stump, soiling a book. Where did the blood come from? What happened in this remote and lonely place? In The Sorrows of Young Werther, just for reference, the main protagonist kills himself by a shot to the head.

The combination of beautiful, harmonious, natural surroundings, inner emotional turmoil, lurking dangers and impending doom is well preserved in the album’s music. Melodious, dreamy guitar parts, often quite long and sometimes acoustic, speak of an intense sensitivity, while fast drumming outburst again and again express a rush of all kinds of emotions difficult to control. The vocals, always raspy, scratchy, vile and nasty, add a dark, sinister element and prevent the music from ever turning kitschy.

Major songwriter, guitarist and vocalist Elijah Cirricione, I have read, has been working on and refining Tome:1 since 2011. You can, in any case, tell that a lot of time and thought were invested into the album’s layered, detailed and intricate sound. My two favourite tracks are Sequestered Hearts and My Only Love. Both feature the above described contrasts of slow atmospheric parts and frantic outburst with excellent transitions between them. The production is clean and sophisticated, allowing you to hear every detail.

To summarize: An excellently realized theme, the music very melodic, intricate, with great attention to detail, hooks a-plenty, beauty too. A debut album very much worth checking out.

(8/10 Slavica)