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An illusion wreathed in obscuring haze. - 80%

hells_unicorn, August 25th, 2011

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.