More than 15 years ago Boreal, operating as a one-person project, wrote and recorded The Battle of VOSAD, a grand amalgam of dungeon synth, black metal, and doom that was released in 2006 by Eternal Warfare Records. All these years later, Boreal decided to resurrect that album and to re-imagine and re-record it, this time with a talented group of allies. In its new form, which includes mastering by Déhà and artwork by Inga Markstrom, it will be released on May 1st by Nebulae Artifacta (with a tape edition coming in July via Realm and Ritual).
The album, as it has been re-created, is the kind of immersive — indeed all-consuming — experience that kindles the imagination into a blaze, more like the stuff of dreams than of mundane earthbound days. And what magnificent and frightening dreams they are, transporting the listener into what seems like an ancient age or a mythic realm, there to bear witness to an otherworldly panorama of conflict, loss, and ascension on a vast scale.
Speaking of dreams, it seems that reflecting upon the album brought a dream to the mind of Boreal‘s creator AEF. He told us this when we asked for a comment:
“As I try to write about The Battle of VOSAD, I am reminded of a dream from the other night. Within the middle plateau I came across a beast made of a shield which had three spade-shaped faces, each halved by the color black and the color red. Each face presented a unique way to overpower me. One way was to inflict an electrical pain, another was to push me away, but the worst was its face that made me lose consciousness. Its purpose was to instill fear into me. I would not fall victim to its attacks and I fought with every bit of energy I had to advance toward it until I was within arm’s length of this deity. It could sense my will and retreated into the darkness.
“These were the kinds of tales that inspired the original recordings of The Battle of VOSAD fifteen years ago. It was a very underproduced album with a lot of speaker crackle. With the help of AW, JR, and Deha the album has been brought back with more clarity and a dark fierceness.”
It is indeed a dark and fierce spectacle of sound which unfolds over the course of four tracks. And maybe that’s all you need to know before beginning to listen. But since my own imagination has been kindled, and the blaze hasn’t yet burned down to embers, I can’t resist sharing impressions of this ravishing musical journey.
At the beginning, “The Battle” opens with a striking overture, a kind of martial or ritual pounding of timpani and a cascading synth melody that shimmers in glorious, mystical, yet unnerving fashion. That melody seems simultaneously wondrous, transportive, and anguished, almost to the point of despair. Sounds resembling massed horns add to the music’s aspect of celestial mystery — and then almost halfway through the track, the music explodes with wrenching power.
Galloping drums, throbbing bass notes, torrents of dense, dark riffing, and scorching screams dramatically increase the music’s intensity, and the timpani booms and rumbles like thunder. The music swells in its harrowing grandeur, creating a spectacle of impending desolation on a vast scale. If this is the sound of battle, it seems to be a titanic conflict being fought across the heavens.
Much of the gripping impact of the album lies in the union of sensations exemplified by that opening song — a seamless combination of spell-binding magnificence and disturbing devastation, of mesmerizing, ethereal beauty and frightening tumult.
“The Battle II” carries that forward, but in even more stunning fashion. Militaristic drum beats morph into rapid-fire blasting and truly enormous rumbling booms, backed by dense waves of sound that seem both destructive and transcendent, both feverishly defiant and frightening, as well as magisterial and crushingly ominous. There may be no more transfixing moment on the album than the horn melody that takes center stage in the middle of the track, a moment of solemn sorrow, reverence, and wonder in the midst of earthshaking upheavals. Even more surprising is the soft acoustic break that comes later, which sounds as if performed on medieval instruments.
That brief instrumental isn’t the only part of the album that seems medieval. In fact, almost everything sounds as if a window has been opened to an ancient age, or perhaps more accurately, a mythic one. “Dawn” certainly invokes visions of lost or imagined worlds, though the panoramic atmosphere of the song is heavy with melancholy, yearning, and grievous loss. The hurtling and methodically pounding percussion create tension, but so does the anguish that flows from the grand, heaving cascades of enveloping synths and the tortured screams. The wailing and quavering tones, backed only by primitive pounding, which occupy minutes in the track’s back half, create images of an ephemeral heavenly host weeping and causing the very air to glisten.
The compulsive drum rhythm that brings “Dawn” to a close triggers neck movement despite the gloom that seems to dwell in the heart of that track, and although the rhythm again becomes more stately in the closing track “Dusk“, the music still glistens and glimmers. That vibrating sound is mesmerizing though on-edge, as if leading to something as yet unseen. The dignified voices of a male chorus also add to the sense that we are about to be introduced to some hallowed but mysterious power. And when it arrives, the effect is ravaging, created by a torrent of blazing drum pistons, intense senses-surrounding riffing that’s feverish and frightening, and the golden arcs of gleaming sound that never seems far away within the album.
As the track, and the album, near the end, the power of the music surges to even greater heights of world-ending extravagance, the low-end sounds resembling an avalanche and an earthquake together, and the music manifesting fire in the skies as the chorus raise their voices in glorification once again.
Now, if you’re still with me, thanks for reading — but proceed directly to the player below and be prepared to think of nothing else for the next half hour and change.
For this recording, Boreal is:
AEF – vocals, guitars, synthesizers
D – guitars, programming
JR – bass
AW – percussion, programming
The album is available for purchase now: