You’re about to hear an album that we hope you’ll find as stunning as we have. “Atmospheric Black Metal” is the simple label, but not an adequate one. It’s inspired and informed by Nature, but anyone who thinks that will lead to an experience of tree-hugging boredom will be shockingly mistaken.
The moods are almost uniformly dark, but the pathways constantly branch and the tonal ingredients, both instrumentally and vocally, are multitudinous. The music fires the senses in harrowing and thrilling ways, and it’s also capable of emotionally felling listeners in a multitude of ways, like trees brought down by both raging chainsaws and old hand axes passed down through generations. It creates sensations of confusion and distress, of chaos and terror, of loneliness and grief, and of haunting ancient mysteries that hide behind the world we see.
The two people responsible for this extraordinary experience are Meghan Wood from Crown of Asteria and Todd Paulson from Canis Dirus. They’ve taken the name Another Black Autumn for this project, and their debut album Resplendent Apparitions at the Dawn is what we’re now presenting in advance of its June 30 release by the always distinctive Fiadh Productions.
The band explain: “The title Resplendent Apparitions at the Dawn is informed by the poetry with which the lyrics for the songs were adapted. All poems are in the public domain and all poets are now but ghosts from the past. We hope that the music captures the aesthetic and original intent of the words presented herein. With respect….”
We’ll go further now into impressions of the music (though of course we won’t blame you if you skip down to the stream without delay), but first we need to give credit to session drummer CJ Yacoub (Canis Dirus), whose continuously distinctive performances are a vital ingredient in what makes the album so startling, and to Carl Skildum (Inexorum, Majesties), whose guest guitar solo on “Back to the Land” is part of what makes that song so jaw-dropping. We should also mention that both Meghan and Todd perform guitars and synths on the record, with Meghan handling the vocals and Todd the bass.
To begin, everything in the opening piece “Blod Skogr” rings — in different tones. It brings together a dreamlike union of cello and violin melody, strummed guitar, and glimmering keys, in which the reverberations of a guitar wistfully take the lead, all together creating a haunting spell — which by the end becomes strange and stressful
The mood shifts sharply with the afore-mentioned “Back to the Land“, which builds feelings of tension and distress through momentous chords, buzzing and roiling tones, clattering and clobbering drums, and violent, echoing screams. The tension boils over in gnashing bass notes, maniacal snare drums, avalanche-strength low-end rumbling, and a dense blizzard of riffage, fronted by truly terrorizing shrieks.
The riffing whirs, rising and falling in dismal frenzies, and the effect is grim and overpowering — which makes the song’s sudden shift into slow, glittering keys, distant guitar-scratching, and steady thumps and skipping cracks, all the more startling. In that digression, Meghan sings in ethereal tones and the ringing guitar seems to beckon. When the next change comes, the music chugs, batters, and convulses, and the snarls and screams go wild, creating a truly frightening crescendo before a desolating denouement.
“Night in June” then assaults the senses in a different way. Meghan cries out the words with striking intensity above stupendous booming upheavals down below. The guitars create an abysmal harmony of writhing moans and wails, and Meghan wails too before venting bestial roars, backed by even more searing wails from the guitar. But this song also suddenly shifts, making space for isolated notes that glimmer over steady beats, and then shifts again, expelling sounds of terrible anguish and appalling calamity… and then shifts again, dramatically softening. A guitar slowly warbles from within a shimmering ambient mists. When the drums return, Meghan‘s voice sounds like the lament of celestial ghosts.
There’s really nothing about any of the songs’ ingredients, apart from the drumming, that sounds connected to the ordinary world around us (though the drumming isn’t ordinary at all), but the opening phase of “Who Robbed the Woods?” sounds perhaps even more astral than anything yet, even when joined by a guitar that clangs, scratches, and contorts in more ragged tones. But the track’s intensity builds by orders of magnitude as the band layer in shrill strings, haunting cries, and slugging beats.
Another Black Autumn save the longest song for the last, and like other songs, “To the Muses” follows a winding path. Cold, abrasive, and morbid at first, the guitar drags like rusted chains of agony, or applies pressure like large rough hands constricting the listener’s throat. The sensations are oppressive, notwithstanding periodic bursts of drum mania, but the music as a whole eventually becomes maniacal too. The guitar relentlessly sizzles like a brain in a deep fryer, or skin being vigorously abraded by steel wool, but even worse than that. The vocals combine torrid screams, lycanthropic howls, and horrid roars.
You may be thankful that the song takes another turn, finding a strange vale off the music’s black path, but it’s not much of a reprieve. The swimming of the notes creates queasiness and menace, and horrors come forth through monstrous vocals and shrieking frequencies.
When the music begins to drag again, it sounds even more apocalyptically doomed, and when the sonic seizures come, the combined effect of the terrorizing vocal cacophony, the blasting drums, and the dense miasma of riffing is horrific. When the convulsions of a violin (or a guitar that sounds like one) pierce through the morass, it spikes the mind.
But the path of “To the Muses” leads to still more twists. The violin tones slowly mourn in sonic mists that shimmer. The music crashes, heaves, scars, and jolts; macabre and monstrous vocals return; the drumming erupts in derangement; a strangled guitar solo screams in abject agony. At the end, the violin is left alone, on its knees and spilling tears.
Resplendent Apparitions at the Dawn will be released this coming Friday on cassette, with cones of rose incense, from Fiadh. The label urges digital-only purchasers to get that version from the band.