My knowledge about Polish Ars Magna Umbrae is rather meagre. The band consists entirely of D.A Khthōn, which in addition to creating and playing music, has produced and released his debut EP on his own. The only involvement he has apparently permitted, is some guest vocals from Hekte Zaren. She is also Polish, and dwells in Adaestuo.
On the drawing board, Through Lunar Gateways with its 7 tracks can look like a full-length, but appearance is deceptive. The duration is limited to 23 minutes, which however is a respectable length for an EP.
On Encyclopaedia Metallum, some deluded souls have come in harm of categorizing Ars Magna Umbrae as atmospheric black metal. The music has a lot of atmosphere, but of a far more discordant type. Through Lunar Gateways has a kaleidoscopic character, quite reminiscent of said Adaestuo in fact, except from D.A Khthōn not blending in a whole lot of ambient sound collages. Thank Satan.
Even the intro Into the Inescapable Madness consists solely of shady claustrophobic metal. There is also a 40 second interlude, but this short clip just reveal eerie guitars before hostile cascades again fills the room. The five songs, of around four minutes each, exhibit strong ominous moods and enraged, hostile temperament.
Ars Magna Umbrae is a release that hits the heart like the fatal dart of a poisoned arrow from Cupid's arch nemesis. And after something like ten spins, it only appear stronger. I'm not sure if the EP has been released on any physical format, but by pressing the bc-logo, you can obtain the digital version for only €3.
The project previously went under the moniker Headwar who released a demo before changing the name to Miserist. Apart from that, the band is shrouded in a mist of anonymous mystery.
The EP comes with an ample amount of music. Six tracks of highly variable length clock in at nearly half an hour.
The EP was created after the man behind the band having seen a disturbing documentary about a psychiatric hospital for children, that appeared more or less as a “good” old-fashioned mental asylum. Each song reflects on an aspect of life behind cold stone walls for a defenceless young and confused person.
From the barely three minutes long track that opens the doors to asylum, until the door locks permanently behind you with barely ten minutes long Narikuntu, there's not much resembling normal song structures. We find intense droning black/death, not far from bands like Ulcerate, but not without a claustrophobic resounding effect of layered noise and industrial elements, as in the case of Skáphe. The songs haven't got any direction in the traditional sense. It's as if someone has put music to utter confusion and mental chaos, bordering on panic.
Both sound and workmanship is good, and fans of Ævangelist et al. know what they have to do. This is disturbing and repulsive “music” in line with the cooperation between Dragged Into Sunlight and Gnaw Their Tongues*.
You have been warned!
Nordvis Produktion, 07.10.16/ 24.02.17
I gave the Swedes a weak four points for their fourth album I Döden (2014) almost three years ago. The album was alright, pleasant and atmospheric, but also a little meek, frail and toothless. Although the genre is called atmospheric black metal, it borrows elements from black metal without being black metal.
Nordvis has recently relaunched album number two and three, Svitjod (2011) & Eld (2012), both of which have been sold out for some time.
We take a sloppy and effortless inspection. Whoever likes white gloves pedantically searching for dust anyway?
Svitjod have got a brand new and improved version of its cover art, but the music appears to be the same, without noticeable change. The dynamic range has fallen from DR12 to DR10, but that's still a highly respectable level. The album seems to be considered a classic in the genre among connoisseurs, and even I understand why. The music gives moods of daunting bewitched forests. The balance between dreamy passages, acoustic performances, biting winds and vicious folkloric entities that roam the very same forest, is performed in a very dynamic way.
The album lasts for a bit over an hour, without boredom given any particular elbow room, which must be said to be a feat. Nevertheless I'll be so rude and brash as to claim that it would be possible to weed out a quarter of an hour, and that it would actually improve the album.
Svitjod is still a consistently nifty album with a rich mood of melancholy, and the song Vinterriket, with its more than 11 minutes, becomes opus and focal point, where every second is viable. And if you're wondering about the title of the album, it's a rewrite of “Svíþjóð”, an old Nordic word that's still used for Sweden in Iceland.
Eld see dark clouds sail in imperceptibly, till it covers the sky's vault. The darkened forest is suddenly bathed in a dim ghostly light. När Himlen Svartnar (When The Sky Blackens) is the title of a song from In Döden, but the name could also describe Eld quite well. The album's murky and bewitched mysticism appeal to a black heart more than what a lot of traditional atmospheric black metal with fragments of pagan/folk do.
This is an album I haven't previously lent my ear to in its entirety, but that turns out to be a very positive surprise. The album lasts for almost exactly an hour, and the dynamic range is measured to neat DR9. The grand finale, Monolit, is with its just over 12 minutes exactly what the title promises, and a resounding one as such. We'll just have to forgive that the album title was used 15 years earlier by a well known Norwegian band.
Skogen, which by the way means the forest, is probably among the better bands in a genre that can be pleasant, but at times protracted. Both of these elder recordings do without difficulty or doubt earn a passing grade.