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There are some experiences that defy the conventional wisdom of what qualifies as music, and with them come a fresh perspective on things. For instance, I’ve always considered myself to have an affinity with reverb drenched, misty sounding metal that has come forth in a number of different sub-genres, but nothing that would cross the line from simply being an extreme version of the mixing vertigo of the early 90s 2nd wave in Norway ala “In The Nightside Eclipse” or “Under A Funeral Moon”. But the next step that would phase this presupposition out of existence would emerge from a rather unique, impressionistically bent middle ground between funeral doom and the haze-ridden black metal of Alcest. I speak of the recent offering of Italian band Arcana Coelestia in “Le Mirage de l'Idéal”.
The best way to describe what goes on amidst the droning guitar and keyboard lines, punishingly slow drum beats, and fog-ridden atmosphere that envelopes the entire arrangement is as an inter-dimensional journey. Perhaps the analogy of the experience of the main character in “Dune” when he consumes the water of life and becomes the prophesized master of the spice fits it best, the entire concept of traveling without moving. Each second of this album is a step into a world where what is heard becomes what is felt, as if one’s skin is being grazed by a variety of different gases on a bottomless planet where gravity doesn’t exist. A surreal culmination of a dream and a mirage, you might say, one that is actually far more otherworldly than the image of the woman and the swan depicted on the album art.
It would be a mistake to try and break down the value of this album in terms of its individual chapters, but if one were unable to avoid such an error, the most sensually intense representations manifest on the opening and closing songs, “Duskfall” and “…Thus Fade In Nocturnal Deluge” respectively. The stymied drag of the beat, combined with the intense mixture of depressive operatic vocals and shrieked/barked harshness defies any standard of preconceived metal orthodoxy. The bulk of what lay in between these two songs largely consists of shorter versions of the same idea, though “The Delirium” largely consists of narrated passages and hazy, ambient noise. Even when a blast beat is employed and the vocals wander dangerously close to Behemoth territory, this tenacious imagery of tragedy and esoteric vision endures like a grand oak in a raging blizzard.
While the overall character of this album varies from being superb to downright astounding, this is not quite something that would entice me to perpetual love. This is something well out of my genre norms that can all but be described as an overpowering infatuation, one that lends itself to occasional listening. In much the same respect as the ambient works of various black metal outfits I’ve grown to like, this is something that is tailored with a specific audience in mind, one that wants to lose itself in a landscape of sounds rather than be riveted by speed and fury. It’s one of the best representations of the funeral doom/black metal hybrid I’ve encountered thus far, and is definitely worthy of the love and devotion of anyone who likes their extreme metal drowned in a deluge of ambient sounds and slowness.
Wow. That's all I have to say after listening to this album. Arcana Coelestia is a four-piece band from Sardinia, Italy, they've been around since 2006 and have already released two albums. I've only listened to this album, and it's pure beauty. The atmosphere is so thick and it feels like you are in a dreamworld despite the rather harsh vocals including growls. But also beautiful clean vocals paint this album with beauty.
From the first track, "Duskfall", you are thrown in the world of Arcana Coelestias music, and it's once again, extremely beautiful. This is a special experience. The mighty drumming the background sets the bottom of the atmosphere greatly and the effects along beautiful guitar melodies is the key to the dreamworld. There are haunting vocals that makes you feel like the world you've entered is a harsh enviroment also, it feels like I am taken back in time, back in the times as the album cover shows. I have no clue what time it is, but I want to be there after listening to this! There are also, as mentioned earlier, really powerful and emotional clean vocals.
There are parts with the epic drumming along with effects and piano, pulling you further away from the ugly world we seem to live in compared to this. In some of the songs you might see the more harsh side of this world with very dark melancholic parts, which may make the atmosphere and world seem chaotic along with the haunting vocals.
But this music is very hard to describe with words I must say. I am still blown away when I play this music. I wish I could say much more, but the last thing I can say is that you should check out this album if you are into music with a lot of emotion and if you are a person who likes to fly away in your thoughts, because this would be your soundtrack.
Debut Arcana Coelestia album "Ubi Secreta Colunt" was a short work that gave folks an inkling of this Italian band's ambitions in carving out a distinctive occult universe of almost psychedelic blackened funereal doom with a cold yet bewitching space ambience. The second album "Le Mirage de l'Ideal" is a further advance in theme and musical style from that debut, so much so that even though only a few years separate the two recordings, the difference between the two in ideas, style and construction is huge, almost like a chasm. As far as I know, AC still draw on the 19th century playwright August Strindberg as an inspiration - he was known as a theosophist and alchemist as well as a writer - and also follow the work of Strindberg's fellow Swede Emanuel Swedenborg who lived 150 years earlier and who was also a man of many occupations: scientist, philosopher, theologian, mystic.
The arc that the AC men follow is established in the first track "Duskfall" - lush and dense musical textures that mix fierce black metal, near-epic and majestic doom, cold spacey ambient tones sculpted from portions of the night sky and dueting black / death metal vocals and operatic pure-toned voices. This is very rich and grand music that flows where it will depending on the mood and emotion invoked by the lyrics. As the six tracks proceed at much the same pace and are not very different from each other in basic style and even construction - I counted three songs in a row featuring middle passages of all-ambient quietude and music with telephone-like masking that made it sound faraway and otherworldly - they can be heard as six movements in one very long opus. Actually the whole album is not that long (just under 50 minutes) but because every track is so packed with melodies, riffs and effects to the point of being overloaded, it seems so much longer, about 10 minutes longer. Part of the reason is that the first half of the album takes its time to establish what's happening and what's going to happen and it's only after the halfway mark that the whole juggernaut lurches onto another plane, one more intense and delirious. Though there are lead guitar solos that get shrill and manic, the whole edifice tends to stick firmly together as it travels towards its goal.
The only track that breaks the mould of this musical monolith is the second-last one "Tragedy and Delirium II - The Delirium" which is dominated by a bloodcurdling black metal vocal singing Italian lyrics against a misted percussion backdrop. This is a mostly vocal track with normal human voices appearing early on talking about unicorns (unicorns?!) before the main one does. I'm amazed that the AC men can maintain a high level of menace, intensity and evil all the way through this 7-minute song. Then again, considering that these guys are Italian and Italy does have a reputation for intense stylised and theatrical horror and psychological thriller / slasher films, of which all decent Italian black metallers should at least have seen Dario Argento's "Suspiria" and "Inferno" and Mario Bava's "Kill, Baby, Kill" and "Planet of the Vampires" (this movie was an influence on Ridley Scott's "Alien"), I probably should expect no less from them.
I find the clean vocals on most tracks irritating and pretentious to be honest. I just don't find they suit the music which, often overblown and elaborate as it is, is still heavily steeped in black metal and doom. The smooth bland texture of the operatic voices doesn't blend at all well with the harsher tones of the musical tapestry and they seem to be very loud as well. The black / death metal vocal along with background demon gabblings more sensed than heard are really enough for this kind of music. Of course there are other kinds of singing, like evil screaming voices of babies and small children possessed by demons, that I can think of which might fit into the music ... and whatever happened to good old-fashioned choirs of angels? Another thing too is the operatic aspect is likely to make the music sound dated and old over time. I suppose that could be the intention.
Few songs really stand out in any way apart from "Tragedy and Delirium II ..." and I can imagine that for some listeners, boredom will set in quickly. The first half of the album tends to just coast along and it's easy to get the impression that the musicians are so awed by their own lush creation that they just wallow in it when they should be pressing on to their goal. The really interesting ideas and music are cooped up in the second half of the album. I can't see either that this album will stay fresh over time: when I hear this album I have a feeling that this creation, gorgeous and lavish as it is, is a static thing content to stay in its particular niche.