Atmospheric Black Metal is indeed a popular genre. Ethereal raspings on a cosmic scale, surging towards you in an abundance of sounds and colors. Towering tsunami waves of riffs and monumental samples that will work overtime to create atmosphere. And those records often originate from the fantasy folks, to the earthy nerds, over to the rebels in the realm.
But unfortunately, the genre garnered so much notoriety that the posers and copycats started to crawl out of the scorched woodwork. So, there’s also a dark side. Many times, the offerings contain overloaded, even overwrought constructs that indeed freely feed on all sorts of themes and clichés.
And it’s not that the RMR crew didn’t find good records from the atmospheric somethings in the Extreme Metal multiverse, far from it. Those that kinda moved beyond the plastic drum machine and abundant synths. Real instruments, skilled Black Metal with trve power, populated by musicians with a vision. And that’s indeed a development we were thrilled to observe over the years.
Now, there are bands out there that actually master that art. And one of them is Ethereal Shroud and their brand new record Trisagion. The band practices a finely balanced brand of Atmospheric Black Metal with a doomy flourish. A finely chiseled sound that may very well transport many a metalhead to his or her very personal metal Valhalla.
Yet, it is this lengthy 64-minute airtime that comes in three massive tracks only that made the RMR deckhands run for cover first. Ethereal Shroud actually took it on themselves to create two potential issues. First, overly lengthy records often overindulge on a ton of cheese and endless noodling about the soundscape. Second, it takes real skill to successfully pull off tracks that go way beyond 20 minutes. Because often, bands end up aimlessly gallivanting about a soundscape that hasn’t yet decided what it wants to be.
And indeed, Trisagion sports a slight tendency to ramble and rove. The songs in there often circle the wagons – and then they circle them again. It is understood that some repetition is useful. Yet, forever returning to the same phrase will kill the beat after some time. The band could thus have cut some
a lot of fat off the arrangement. This – in turn – would lead to a crisper and more vigorous delivery.
But, when it comes to writing heavy music that will hold its water for lengthy tracks with a megaton of material, the band around Joseph Hawker is top-notch. Already those drums of doom at the beginning Chasmal Fires got us good. Together with the ambient sounds, classical instruments, and slight atmospherics, this builds an interesting soundscape with a sweet pull. And already, you won’t ever want to leave. The inclusion of some female wailings into the sturdy Black Metal fray just kicked our interest levels sky-high. Thus, already the start of Trisagion is like Summoning for grown-ups.
The record excels in those monumental avalanches of sound painted in bold colors. An epic tour-de-force that often borders on the surreal. I am unsure if you remember Pink Floyd with their lengthy tracks. This band was able to pull you along with ever-changing themes on a totally different style, of course. Well, Ethereal Shroud managed to create a similar type of groove but translated in Atmospheric Black Metal speak. It all resides on a frugal foundation of almost desperate layers of doom with the vocals about five levels deep.
Thoughtful ambient acoustics coexist with classical wispy melodies. And those suddenly collide with absolutely frenetic attacks of vile Black Metal straight out of the good ol’ Scandinavian playbook. Furthermore, the band gave those three tracks a distinct flavor. From searching and exploring (Chasmal Fires), over loud and assertive (Discarnate), to expectant and just a tad hopeful (Astral Mariner), you’ll find a ton of emotion on Trisagion. And it takes a lot of skill to pull that off, make no mistake.
Ultimately though, Trisagion is a truly impressive album. The powerful cathedral, soaring soundscapes, at times loud and urgent, and at others subtle, deliciously harsh, or bleak, are exactly what we’d expect from such a record. A perfect mélange of expertly arranged Atmospheric Black Metal with a somber and forlorn doom streak. In other words, this is one of the best doomy Atmoblack pieces that crossed our hawse this year.
And that would be splendid news in itself, right? Only, this album will, very unfortunately, also be their last. So, no further roaming about lofty aural lands for Ethereal Shroud in this lifetime. So sad.