I was flooded by a wave of excitement when the news of this record's release made its way to me. Its been 16 years since the band dropped "666 International" and with the disappointment of 2007's "Supervillain Outcast" I should of been cautious, but alas the title and album cover sparked my imagination with hopes of a glorious return to form. On arrival this one went straight to the top of my playlist, but quickly I groaned as it became clear this wasn't going to be my cup of tea.
The aesthetic of the record isn't exactly Black Metal, churning blast beats and droning distorted guitars aside, its a muted, muddy and warm production that dampens the aggression and paves the way for its more flamboyant qualities. On paper it sounds like something id love, long passages of unraveling music that transitions from aggression and evolves through dark, eerie compositions, giving way for a variety of lighter instrumental ideas and intensities that across the five lengthy tracks explore many moods. The instrumentals alone are well performed, indulgent numbers that lack a spark or flair to truly define them. But crashing into the fragile like a knife through butter is Aldrahn wailing theatrics, his tone and delivery dispel the atmospherics and cut the tension. His loose, emotional performances scrape and pull on the chords of pain as his screams, shouts and crys punish the listener with their intensity. I appreciate the performance art in tracks like "Architect Of Darkness", where Aldrahns despairing screams paint the pain vividly, but their was something deathly off between the two as his vocals continually dispelled any magic the song was building.
And the music has magic, there is clearly something at work in these instrumentals when they break from the metallic and into the acoustic, ethereal reverb lead passages, there are a range of musical styles contributing to the unnerving and eerie atmospheres, including the use of additional instruments like ghostly pianos and haunting flutes. It could all amount to something beautiful, but often fell flat, undoubtedly helped along by Aldrahn and Victonik's theatrics. I will continual to listen in the hope of familiarity overcoming the soreness, but initially its been a lacking listen, at least "brightened" in one sense of the word, by its richer acoustic moments.