Living in a dramatic natural setting can be a double-edged sword. Imagine a place bounded by the vast, untamed Pacific Ocean and the Salish Sea, and indeed by water all around, with a mountain range running through it, encompassed by dense, towering forests and sheltered by skies both daunting and glorious. In a state of despondency, such a place might seem like a calculated reminder of how small, insignificant, fleeting, and unattractive your own existence really is. On the other hand, a place like that can so powerfully overwhelm all ugliness as to provide inspiration and hope.
The place we happen to be talking about is Vancouver Island, officially a part of British Columbia in Canada, but really a kind of world all its own. The largest community on that enormous island is Victoria, and Victoria is home to the black metal band Liminal Shroud. It’s no wonder that their natural surroundings have an influence on their music, in ways both dark and blazing — a carefully chosen word, because their forthcoming second album, which you’re about to hear, is named All Virtues Ablaze.
photos by Rob Hehr, Victoria BC
Those thoughts about the natural setting of the band’s home aren’t just prompted by the credit they expressly give it as a source of their creative fires Across four expansive tracks on their new album, the music itself is vast and towering, awe-struck and splendid, but also creates a sense of purging, of a kind of ruthless but necessary scourging, a furious confrontation against what’s dismal and discouraging.
In its changing moods the album at times seems daunted by the seeming futility of human existence, and at times it’s beautiful in its portrayal of melancholy, yet also seems to be a fierce rejection of beleaguered submission and an embrace of the horizon that might lie ahead. Like broken rocks buffeted by surging tides, people can withstand the assaults of life and endure, so it seems to say.
“Hypoxic“, is the album opener and the shortest piece of the four, though it nears the eight-minute mark. After a dose of mauling abrasion, the opening riff rings out in a way that pierces the mind, immediately creating a mood of fear and despair, soon joined by obliterating blast-beats and scalding vocal savagery. The drumwork remains explosive even as it changes, and the intensity of the riffing stays at an equally high level, blazing, swirling, and slashing in displays of senses’ shattering and wholly consuming extravagance.
Crestfallen moods eventually emerge through the ringing melodies, together with sensations of both flailing confusion and ferocious defiance. Those melodies pack a strong emotional punch, and elevate to heights of bleak, imposing grandeur.
That first song is one that tends to erase any sense of time passing. The same is true of the subsequent three tracks. It’s easy to get lost in the ringing and regretful melody that opens “Mists Along Florencia”, an immersion in sorrow beneath damp gray skies, and equally easy to become one with the hard-charging wildfire of sound that builds from there and becomes breathtaking.
Like almost all well-constructed long songs, the intensity of these ebbs and flows. At low tide, the mood becomes introspective and fractured by doubts, or worse. Disarray and hopelessness seem to dominate the dark beginning of “Transmigration I: Pelagic Voids”, but even then you can feel the fight beginning, and the tide crashes in — drums pummeling, bass hurtling, guitars ravishing, the vocals scorching.
More ebbs and flows follow within that first Part of “Transmigration”. There’s something warm and welcoming, something bright and encouraging, in the long instrumental excursion that occupies the song’s center section, which is accented by riveting drum rhythms and by solemn singing, and a sense of climbing and soaring in the next surge, which again electrifies the senses. Yet even as the drums blast like weapons, a feeling of heartbreak intrudes (it seems to be a constant companion in this album).
Having come this far, it won’t be a shock to learn that “Transmigration II: The Cleansing Ash” begins with a beguiling piano melody (ah, those wonderful ebbs and flows persist), though it’s soon joined by booming, granite-heavy rhythmic grooves and spine-snapping snare work. The music begins to expand and scathe again, to banish any thoughts but the experience of being carried away by gale and fire, by the sweep of dark melodic cascades and ravaging vocal tirades.
A lonesome lead instrumental meanders through the grim majesty of what surrounds it, like a searcher climbing mountain paths. Visions of unearthly splendor seem to appear; the guitars ring like crystals; haunting voices sing; and then the music swells in power and that lonely instrumental becomes vibrant, invigorated by the vast swaths of sound and fury, by the stampeding drums and victorious gang vocals.
Well, that was a lot of words up there, but maybe just one would do as well: The album is magnificent. And a compelling advance beyond what Liminal Shroud had achieved before. Credit for it goes to:
Aidan Crossley – Guitar, vocals, piano
Rich Taylor – Bass, vocals
Drew Davidson – Drums
Liminal Shroud have made this statement about All Virtues Ablaze:
Our second album, All Virtues Ablaze, takes the vision set forth on our debut and executes with greater intensity, song craft and performance. Written and recorded between 2019 and 2021, this album represents and captures a process of rejection, annihilation and regeneration of the self and contemplates the cyclical forces of futility that shape our condition.
Musically, All Virtues Ablaze is a major development on our previous album, taking the emotive atmospherics, searing melodicism and bitter fury found on Through the False Narrows to new heights. We are very proud of the compositional strength and impact of these four songs.
Lyrically, we delve deeper into the themes of hopelessness and despair, resolve and transformation present on our previous release, sharpened in the perception of emptiness yet with an eye to the vast reaches and sources of solace to be found above, below and around us. Again, the unyielding tides and otherworldly expanses of the coast provide much inspiration.
This release is our next statement and beginning.
We find our virtue in the blaze.
All Virtues Ablaze will be released by Willowtip Records on August 5th. It will be available on digipak, Vinyl LP, and digital formats, and it’s available for pre-order now.
The album was recorded and mixed by Matt Roach at Rain City Recorders in Vancouver, BC. Dave Otero mastered the album at Flatline Audio in Denver, CO. The remarkable artwork was created by Justyna Koziczak, London, UK.