When I bought this album, I thought I was buying an old-school doom record, in keeping with the heaviness of the Southern Lord roster. I had read, or, rather, misread, reviews of it, seeing the words dark, experimental and heavy. When I got home, and put it on during a January evening, after two or three minutes I slowly began to realise that this wasn’t the album I thought it was going to be, in a bad way. Is that a cello? Where’s the distortion? Is it all going to be like this? Are we there yet? Halfway through, I was ready to write it off as a disappointing buy, and consign it to the ‘albums bought in error’ section of the collection (Aerosmith’s Nine Lives, Pearl Jam’s Backspacer, and some other stuff I don’t want to talk about). By the time it ended, 46 minutes later, I thought it was great.
It’s not a metal album, but it’s something that a fan of metal may well enjoy. It possesses heaviness, despite its instrumentation, and an intangible, yearning quality. Sigil Of Brass enters with a chiming, three note guitar intro, soft rolls of cymbals and swells of cellos, maintaining the same drifting speed throughout. There is a subtle and gradual build in intensity as it flows into His Teeth Did Shine Brightly, with two wavering guitar lines weaving across each other, backed by deep chords on the cello, which has a scraping, tactile quality. A Multiplicity Of Doors departs from the benignly wondering tone of the prior tracks in favour of an ominous gloom, with a minor guitar riff, rasping cello, downbeat bass and rattling percussion. The cello comes to the fore of this track, rough and twisting. The Corascene Dog enters with long, downbeat swells on the cello, and I am lost, wandering an uncertain path in the darkness, unclear how I got here or how to get out. In this space I find time to ask, why does this music work? It is mournful, but not depressing; other-worldly, but not bizarre; heavy, but light. I found it hard taking detailed notes on this album, and then to write about it at length, because it remains very similar throughout. However, despite this, it doesn’t feel static, and remains a captivating listen. It’s this sense of immersion that makes it a winter album; despite the warm production, it invokes walking through a field of snow in the dark, with the dark red sky overhead the only light on the narrow path. The artwork by Stacey Rozich is fittingly minimal but lush, depicting a demonic procession advancing through a deep, empty solitude, keeping in touch with the Biblical and alchemic references of the song titles (which reminds me, if anyone can tell me what a Corascene Dog is, it would be much appreciated).
During a phrase of listening to this album heavily, I spent a couple of cold night time walks down wooded paths listening to this, trying to absorb its enigmatic and transcendental qualities whilst not freaking out at the consequent sensory experiences. I should have just recalled the liner notes.
‘“Sila Ersinarsiniodluge” (Be Not Afraid of the Universe).
Najagneq, Inuit Shaman quoting a supreme spirit, Sila.’