Are you ready for “the unravelling of your unconscious ancient dreams, crossing the abyss into transcendental magic realms?” Well using the words of BSB aka Black Sorcerer Battle seems apt. In answer though, I have to admit I am still kind of lost in the snowdrift of the new Paysage d’Hiver album ‘Im Wald’ so was not sure I was quite ready for another icy avalanche just yet. That particular album weighed in at 2 hours making this one at 73 minutes a plateau on the climb to rest weary feet for a while and try and get some warmth through the bones. Comparisons over though, there will always be practitioners of frosty might in black metal and they should be judged by their own merit, so let’s come in and shut the doors on the British summer and be prepared to shiver a little.
The big surprise here is that apparently BSB has done everything on this release which means Swiss keyboardist Vinterriket is seemingly not present. Still it’s the Alps and far from California we find ourselves in nearest proximity to as the album eases us in to the ‘Womb of the Labyrinth’ via chilled ambient music and chants. Mood set, it is not long before we spiral into dizzying blizzards of battering drums and scything guitars, conjuring up a veritable whiteout of the senses. 16-minute blasts of bitter, weathered instrumentation are the order of the day on tracks like the descriptively entitled ‘Incantation of the Vortexx’ and the nebular, embittered torrent is a driving force sweeping the listener into a very hostile environment. It is one poised with wonder & grace as well and the atmospheric acoustic breaks and keyboard work adds majesty and grandiosity as this musical Snowpiercer gathers momentum and hurtles down the tracks. BSB’s vocals are snarly yaps augmenting this vast journey and whatever lyrically possesses him here shrieks out of the tempest whilst guitars weave and drums thunder like a volley of snowball hits. Completely mesmerising it is no surprise how you find yourself drawn into these heady tracks and the overall cold cosmos that has been created here is utterly spellbinding. The guitar tones when allowed to pucker out an acoustic strum of their own in interludes have a bit of a vibe of Blashyrkh about them, their Immortal tone perfectly jangling away. Then we get to an ominous interlude like ‘Spectral Emanations’ and one could be walking up to a sinister lodge in the mountains hoping to find some respite from the harsh elements. Bad news though as it seems from the macabre and baroque strains of things, we are at the doors of The Overlook Hotel and we all know venturing inside and holing up in room 237 will not be a good idea.
Sleep brings nightmares and the ‘Phantasmal Eye of Dreams’ sees us back in the grip of terror with the yapping vocals all the more ferocious and the blasting taken to another level as the keyboards sweep around unravelling demons of the mind in a flurrying fury. A widescreen and cinematic approach is definitely part of the construct and the fantastical atmospheres have you dashing over the rough terrain on a fast moving sledge drawn by panting huskies in these dreams. This really is superbly constructed and it all holds together like a breath-taking adventure of explorers on an expedition to places where man is an unwelcome and rare visitor to inhospitable lands. Starwinds, Cold Suns and Saturnian Moons are all approached and gazed at during the rest of this journey and the album flows magnificently over its lengthy running time without losing its invigorating cut and thrust or dramatic gravitas in the slightest. A continuation from the five albums that proceeded this sees Battle Dagorath really hitting a peak and climbing to the very summit of this mountainous terrain. What a fantastic trip this is and like bands such as Darkspace this is an album to gaze into the void whilst experiencing it but you should be well aware the void is watching and will gaze right back at you unlocking your imagination and indeed your dreams and nightmares…
(8.5/10 Pete Woods)