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Cicadan tells of a time before man, when nature was left to grow wild and unabated by human interference. Although this one-man ambient black metal project hails from Australia, much of its sound and aesthetic shares a partnership with the left-wing Cascadians of the Pacific Northwest. The obvious regional separation aside, this brainchild of one Shamus Toomath may be seen as a sort of extension of that scene; raw production, field samples, and ten-plus minute tunes are the norm here. On his debut “Mother”, there is rarely the sense that Shamus’ Cicadan stretches past his influences. The sonic beauty here is tarnished by a needlessly unruly sense of song structure, although the album’s dark, nature-based atmosphere ultimately makes it a trip worth taking.
Taking a hint from Wolves in the Throne Room and Cicadan’s own label mates in Skagos, “Mother” is a very dark sounding album, but there’s nothing evil about it. While I’d say that a lot of these so-called adherents of the ‘Cascadian sound’ halfheartedly try to give an intolerant style of music a brighter outlook, there is nothing about Cicadan which indicates good nor evil; such is nature. Plainly evident however is a sense of environmental regression Shamus seeks with his music. Hearing a tortured call of an owl or the rustle of bushes in between Cicadan’s doomy riffs somehow doesn’t bring to mind a mere retreat from society. Instead, it evokes a time period where the world was much younger and tumultuous. There is an intense, raw energy here, although that does not always equate to speed. Split into three parts, “Mother” is a single piece of music, split into a “Day”, “Dusk” and finally, “Night”. If anything, Cicadan’s greatest accomplishment is creating a sonic aesthetic completely detached from the granted safeties of society. It would not feel entirely out of place to hear “Mother” playing if I was out in some Triassic forest, taking shelter in a cave from the rain.
Anyone familiar with the raw, nearly punkish production of Skagos or early Wolves in the Throne Room demos will find “Mother” to take the sound down a similar path. A good bit of the album’s forty minutes are devoted to a sort of quiet raw ambiance- listeners aren’t even introduced to Cicadan’s black metal leanings until several minutes into the piece. In fact, only the seventeen cornerstone “Dusk” feels like a song at all. “Day” and “Night” ultimately come off as a respective extended intro and outro- they never adopt many twists of their own, and certainly don’t have the substance to survive as standalone pieces. Fortunately, the quality on “Dusk” manages to keep the entire album afloat. Although the opener and closer don’t feel much more than acoustic soundscapes, “Dusk” is a monster, taking the listener deep into a prehistoric aether. It’s dark and fierce, and reminded me at more than one point of Agalloch’s own seventeen minute epic, “Black Lake Nidstang”. With that being said, I can’t say much for its structure, which is too wild and unfocused to make it a consistently enjoyable venture. “Mother” has a mystical sense of wonder to it, but I don’t think I’d be out of bounds saying that there’s been plenty of bands who have executed the atmosphere-based nature worship more successfully. I do not share the voracious enthusiasm some have shown for it, but it’s rare that I’ve felt such a sincere sense of nature in music of this style before.