Before listening to a note, I loved the idea of Crystal Coffin‘s new album, The Starway Eternal. So let’s begin with that idea, which also helps explain the cover art and the adventurous sensations afforded by the music. As presented in the press materials:
“Cast against the historical realities of the Chernobyl power plant meltdown of 1986, the assumed protagonist – an operator at the power plant – discovers the portalway behind an inoperable console and soon finds that her longing for meaning in this chaotic world answers the opportunity to seek out the purported gods and angels that live among the cosmos in our known solar system.
“To find such entities would be to imbue a sense of importance in our collective existence beyond the daily disorder and existential despair that one accepts. Her trips into various corners of space reveal little to no such beings, and during one such fruitless endeavor, her portalway back to earth is shut permanently; reactor 4 at Chernobyl back on earth has suffered its meltdown during shutdown operation.
“Frantic, she makes the decision to return to earth by falling through the fiery atmosphere as a lonely, final and futile act of desperation. Of course, survival is impossible, and such an act becomes a metaphor for our time, wandering the earth with little connection to anything beyond the physical world”.
You see? Isn’t that a fascinating concept, especially for those of us who revel in science fiction (and don’t have a terribly uplifting view of human existence)? Of course the vital question concerns how Crystal Coffin realize this narrative in their music. And the answer is that they do it in jaw-dropping fashion, with the kind of scale, intensity, and unearthly atmosphere that the story demands.
In more prosaic terms, this Vancouver trio (Aron Shute, Lenkyn Ostapovich, and Rob Poirier) have created a work of progressively inclined melodic black metal that incorporates synths, piano, and balalaika, in addition to the other usual ingredients.
By their own admission, they draw influence from such bands as Enslaved and Wolves in the Throne Room, as well as High on Fire and the haunting keyboard work of Fabio Frizzi. But the truth is that the album doesn’t really sound like the work of any of those bands and performers, but instead distinctively stands on its own, creating its own dazzling (yet very dire and dark) musical narrative arc.
The Starway Eternal is set for an imminent October 15 released by A Beast In The Field, and we have a full premiere stream for you to enjoy — preceded by many more words (of course it won’t hurt our feelings if you just skip over them and get to the player below).
In the album opener, “Shapeshifter Huntsman”, futuristic cosmic ambience forms the brief prelude to an electrifying storm of scathing riffage, magma-like bass, livid percussive pummeling, and scorching snarls, which collectively create a feeling of cruel and crazed viciousness. Bursts of darting fretwork embed hooks in the adrenaline-fueled torrent, and waves of gleaming and chiming tones sweep above mesmerizing bass maneuvers and a distraught piano melody, creating an atmosphere of haunting splendor
Crystal Coffin waste no time proving again how formidable they are in creating intensely dramatic and unnerving music when then launch straight into the title track. The music blares and jolts, creates maddened musical seizures, and, even more than the opening track, incorporates so many rhythmic and melodic hooks within the fast-paced torrent that the song becomes immediately infectious — and it also soars in a way that makes it even more towering and majestic, without losing the overarching feeling of dread and downfall.
That conjunction of vast and awe-inspiring sweep, thunderous grooves, incendiary and slashing riffage, and insane, throat-ruining vocals also make “Skeletons” and “Console of Horror” stunning experiences, providing no relent in the album’s dire, heart-pounding, mind-blowing intensity, and further immersing the listener in the near-overpowering impact of the music, which seems to wholly consume the senses.
New ingredients appear within “The Red Forest”, as the vocalist sings in enthralling fashion, with a style that comes from outside metal, and the band infiltrate the music with futuristic darting electronica and maniacal soloing, though the jaw-dropping, synth-propelled scale and emotional intensity of the surrounding music remain undiminished. Near the end, the protagonist speaks in a distorted voice, as if the radio waves are degrading.
The music’s intensity finally gives way in “Cremation: Between Fire and Ice”, a sublime instrumental piece that again brings into play mesmerizing astral ambience along with melancholy keyboard and guitar arpeggios and musing low-frequency tones.
With “The Descent” the band reveal their prog-rock influences and simultaneously light a fire under the listener’s pulse with a vivid, darting riff and neck-snapping beats. A hard-rocking, head-moving song, and home to a spectacular guitar solo, its chiming, mysterious melodic motifs don’t let you forget where you are — somewhere far away from our planet.
“Mega Tomb (including Tomorrow’s Ghost)” ends the album in fantastic fashion, opening with a grief-stricken symphonic overture that ascends in power. Feverish yet desperate riffing and skull-smacking drums turn up the burner. The drumming switches into a fast, piston-pumping drive; the guitars throb and blare; the bleeding-raw, raging vocals are as terrifying as ever. And of course the music reaches breathtaking heights of harrowing splendor — only to soften and become spellbinding, thanks to a forlorn but enthralling piano melody. Yet even there, at the end, strange ambient sounds provide reasons to feel unsettled.
“Refreshingly cinematic, palatably modern, and un-selfconsciously adventurous, CRYSTAL COFFIN dazzlingly skirt the outer boundaries of black metal and psychedelia, space and time, with The Starway Eternal.” So say the press materials, and it’s all true.
For more info about the album and how to acquire it, check the links below.