Perhaps because I often confuse “numinous” with “luminous“, I resorted to a dictionary to be sure about the meaning of the former before listening to the Jordablod album we’re premiering today. And in doing that I saw this explanation:
“Numinous is from the Latin word numen, meaning ‘divine will’ or ‘nod’ (it suggests a figurative nodding, of assent or of command, of the divine head). English speakers have been using numen for centuries with the meaning ‘a spiritual force or influence.’ We began using numinous in the mid-1600s, subsequently endowing it with several senses: ‘supernatural’ or ‘mysterious’ (as in “possessed of a numinous energy force”), ‘holy’ (as in ‘the numinous atmosphere of the catacombs’), and ‘appealing to the aesthetic sense’ (as in ‘the numinous nuances of her art’).”
I also found a quote by CS Lewis about the meaning of numinous that I also think is worth sharing — but not until after we’ve considered The Cabinet of Numinous Song, which you’ll be able to stream now, just a few days before its January 24 release by Iron Bonehead Productions.
There is indeed an undeniably numinous quality to the music, a recurring sensation of being in the presence of mystery energies and spiritual powers. The music also has the capacity to produce sensations of wonder and awe, of unearthly majesty and supernatural might. But lest you think this Swedish trio have crafted nothing but mesmerizing spells, they also prove themselves quite capable of ripping and ravaging.
The opener, “A Grand Unveiling”, provides a compelling introduction to Jordablod‘s creative strategies. In the course of its nearly eight minutes it exposes the listener to haunting acoustic guitar harmonies that seem to wail like lost apparitions, to crushing doom-drenched chords and racing black-metal fury, to writhing and gloriously soaring leads which seem to glimmer with otherworldly lights. Ebbing and flowing, juxtaposing experiences both soft and loud, spellbinding and riotously ravaging, the song moves among changing moods but seems perpetually shadowed by darkness.
However, “A Grand Unveiling” doesn’t completely reveal Jordablod‘s genre-splicing strategies. Over the following six tracks they intertwine not only ingredients from death and black metal traditions but also continue to draw upon plaintive, folk-like acoustic melodies as well as ringing guitar elements reminiscent of post-punk and the crushing heaviness of sludge and doom. Listeners may also find post-metal in the mix, and exotic qualities in the melodies that have their origins in areas far beyond the band’s Scandinavian homeland.
A few qualities persist across all the tracks: The vocals are larynx-scarring and wrenching in their impact. The band continuously create sharp contrasts, although the juxtapositions are of different kinds. And the presence of spectral, numinous atmospheres is never far away.
As but one further example of the juxtapositions and the dynamism of Jordablod‘s song-writing, consider “The Beauty of Every Wound”, which waits for you at the center of the album. Introduced by glistening, beautiful arpeggios and a solemn drum cadence, the song morphs into a heavy, hard-rocking, and highly infectious affair — a neck-wrecker of a high order thanks to the power of the rhythm section, accented by jangling and slashing guitars and shimmering keyboards. As I hear it, there’s a gothic, otherworldly quality to the song (the music of Tribulation occasionally comes to mind), especially when the driving momentum abates, and the finale seems to channel both anguish and the intrusion of spirits from a netherworld.
The diversity within the music is a hallmark of every song, and every song becomes an enthralling sequence of movements, of changing tempos and morphing guitar or keyboard tones (in some of the more “lonesome” passages it sounds like there’s a pedal-steel in the mix), of twisting and turning moods and interesting sonic textures. Sometimes the music sounds crazed and delirious, sometimes carnal and cavorting, sometimes rapturous, haunting, or crushed by grief.
From what I’ve written, this may sound like an experience that would constantly throw you off-balance, and at times it does. Those surprises are part of the album’s appeal. Yet the band are so accomplished in their harnessing of different energies and styles that the songs seem more like bold, richly embellished narratives than chaotic jumbles. Every track is wonderful, and so is the album as a whole.
Look for The Cabinet of Numinous Song on January 24th. And check the links below for how to acquire it.
And now here’s that CS Lewis quote I promised (from The Problem of Pain):
Suppose you were told there was a tiger in the next room: you would know that you were in danger and would probably feel fear. But if you were told “There is a ghost in the next room,” and believed it, you would feel, indeed, what is often called fear, but of a different kind. It would not be based on the knowledge of danger, for no one is primarily afraid of what a ghost may do to him, but of the mere fact that it is a ghost. It is “uncanny” rather than dangerous, and the special kind of fear it excites may be called Dread. With the Uncanny one has reached the fringes of the Numinous. Now suppose that you were told simply “There is a mighty spirit in the room,” and believed it. Your feelings would then be even less like the mere fear of danger: but the disturbance would be profound. You would feel wonder and a certain shrinking—a sense of inadequacy to cope with such a visitant and of prostration before it—an emotion which might be expressed in Shakespeare’s words “Under it my genius is rebuked.” This feeling may be described as awe, and the object which excites it as the Numinous.