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The musical strength, sense of purpose, and originality of composition which first attracted me to this band, and led to such a fruitful collaboration with its main proponent, G. Velaetis, continues unabated on this, his newest unleashing of infernal calls to the dark. In this case it is comprised of nine novel constructions, beautifully paced, serenely destructive, effortlessly involving, and completely immersive. Once again, the doors open to Velaetis's inner world, and Darkness Eternal escorts us through this labyrinth without ever looking to the side, without stumbling along the way... no, from the very beginning it is clear that while this band has evolved, has changed, metamorphosized into something larger, variegated, more multi-hued and dynamic, there haven't been any kinds of compromises made in the entire process. This music continues as it always has: with a confident will, a conviction of virulity, determination and ambition appearing beneath each note, each perfectly-placed slash of the cymbals and crash of the rhythm guitars.
For those who don't know, this is a one man band, and simply one of the best in the world when it comes down to the level of compositional skill, the technical ability of the composer, and the songwriting talent on display. As many other people have said already (maybe including me), Velaetis does not regard his status as a solo artist as any kind of detriment, but rather an opportunity for a new purity of vision. Free of all the group politics, the machinations of outside personalities, the subterfuge of contrasting wills, he is unimpeded here from writing exactly what he wants to write, without supervision, without compromises, without excuses. Most importantly: he can do so without sterile, involving, terribly time-wasting explanations. The only musician Velaetis the composer has to give directions to is Velaetis the instrumentalist, and he indeed plays everything here. Instead of frustrating himself with half-understood, failed attempts to communicate nuance or the purpose of select passages, the exact emotional timbre and key tone of each note and beat, he simply has to play. You can see, right at the beginning, what kind of advantage this gives him... and also the enormous responsibility for the fate of his own music. However... isn't this the way it should be? If the trials of composition (or indeed of everything involved in the writing, production, and release of his music) are more demanding, the rewards of success must be that much sweeter. This is the advanced equation that the solo artist comes to know by heart, in private, in the inviolable world of his own thoughts. For most of them, for the ones who are unapologetic, who simply want to produce music without all the excessive tangents to their expression that inevitably arise from creating a band as a vehicle of artistic endeavor, they wouldn't have it any other way.
Anyone who reads this magazine regularly probably knows my own views concerning solo artists, so I won't bother to go into tedious detail about those convictions here. Let me just say that I have always believed that in the advancement of art, of any genre of music, in movements in aesthetics, individuals have to be isolated in order to reach ripeness - in order to allow what is original inside of themselves to reach a purity in the internal dialogue, and thus be broadcast later as ideal creations or works of art, sprung from the unconscious in a manner that illusionists refer to as spontaneous while the artist himself can recall the immense labor of birth, polishing, construction, eradication of the superfluous, etc. If what I, individually, seek as a listener is a straight line, the shortest point between my mind and the mind of a composer, a clarity and sincerity of purpose, a nexus where my own emotions come into closest proximity with the will, desires, and thoughts of another (isn't this the motivation at the heart of any kind of communication?) then listening to solo artists, those who remain free of compositional restrictions and who write music for themselves, to bring the internal into the external - those for whom the only strictures of creation remain their own personal issues in the artist's evolution that all must travel through alone - must surely be the apex of any important listening experiences I could possible have. I have built this theory of my own response to music from experience, and it remains solo artists whom I seek - almost instinctively, now - in my continuing efforts to reduce the effort of listening. How many souls should I have to pierce through in order to get to the heart of the matter? Ideally it will be only one.
This album is of course a second series of resolutions, as I already said above, representing not only an advancement in the breadth of musical language that Velaetis carries within him, but also impressive widening of the range of his self-created entity's powers of genre compression and cross-pollination. Death metal, black metal, doom metal? What are labels to the true artist? Drawing from many different influences (most of which have already been pointed out by this reviewer and others), and yet, when all is said and done, rising atop those monuments to plan and build further monuments, the walls of a new civilization being put together in interlocking forms over the ashes of another... this is the new art of Darkness Eternal. Simply put, it would be a dire mistake to point to a few founding father bands as influences here and think that this somehow explained this band's entire output. These vicious critical circles makes blues musicians of us all, and so (in more than one way) slaves of an eternal whitewashed order. No, it must be recognized that in the creation of a viable, extensive, completely personal sense of aesthetics, as it is expressed through the musician's constant outpouring of sound, there is simply a point where the influences give way, when they are broken through and the soul takes those first steps into a new territory - which of course, as it is unconscious ground that is covered, memories, dreams, desires - will always remain half-familiar to the artist himself, if not to the rest of us. I think Velaetis has accomplished that here, as the majority of this material does not really sound like any other band. Of course there are the various references that are thrown out as sign posts, landmarks, etc. in order for us to orient ourselves, and for the composer to align himself among the criss-crossing webs of genre affiliation, but that is their only purpose. The basic drive at the center of it all remains the self-created machinery of Velaetis's efforts to communicate emotional states, and while his music may carry sharp knives in order to cut away all of our comfortable layers of personal protection - those cocoons that protect us from the world - they are double-edged in that they are constantly slicing away his own protection as well. Violence is necessary in order to reach the soul. As the art evolves, the form that is the musician's pure message advances further and further into the light, and our sight is made clearer in order to see it.
Of these nine songs (the number nine was held to be sacred by the Ancient Greeks as it represented the count of the Muses, those goddesses who inspired) I think I can point to a select few as being especially important to me. For example, the first song, the title track, is a tour-de-force that sums up, in six short minutes, almost the entire range of this band's evocative ability. Journeying from melancholy, world-weary melodicism (braced and mounted behind sheets of translucent guitar reverb like a Catholic relic beneath breath-frosted glass, or life itself just out of the reach of an invalid, framed in his view in a rain-washed window at the close of an Autumn sunset, the darkness always on the horizon) to triumphant, bitter lance-points and sudden lunges of rhythmic cruelty which lapse at their apex back into languid moments of depression, from strident, militaristic batterings of distortion which explode outwards at the climax of their short, microsecond-long lives like hollow point bullets to waves upon drowning waves of suicidal turns toward the black, once again, the music itself becomes, in its abstractions, a sort of unsafe harbor at flood tide, the murderous calm before an ever more lethal storm. Velaetis succeeds here in functioning as a true artist, an architect of the beautiful, by transforming bitterness, despair, the ending impotence of rage, into forms that soothe, comfort, and inspire - he turns tragedy into triumph, if only for seconds at a time...but what artist could ever do more? If these claims seem extravagant, I only have this music to blame. I can only communicate what these songs create inside of me.
For those who fear, the rest of the music follows suit... dark, brooding, immensely heavy death metal, with Velaetis's gift for melodic transport shining through in every moment. However, these are just surfaces, it what the melodies are saying to me that is really important.
Considered pragmatically, turning to the technical, what Darkness Eternal gives us is a base, a foundation, a sensibility that has been reared on the most ethereal elements of death metal. One can feel, by listening to this music, that the parts of other albums, other songs, other artists' work that have inspired the composer in his own way has only been the moments - sometimes sheer seconds of upward flight - that reach towards the transcendent, that climb over themselves in order to create worlds completely separate from our own. It is this concentration that makes the art of Velaetis idiosyncratic in this age of bands who have turned completely towards this world and who have forsaken the abilities of music to instantly cause to come into being dimensions of sound that allow us spiritual movement (either towards the sky or downwards, it usually doesn't matter) outside the range we have as waking, breathing human beings. Inspired by these songs, I have to ask: if the music isn't transcendent, if it doesn't lead us to farther shores, what is the use of it? The etymological root of the word 'mundane' is, after all, the Latin term 'mundanus', which not only means 'earthly' or 'of this world', as it has come to be understood, but also is the word for a specific type of tomb. Artistic movements die as they drink too much of the stagnant reality we are given every day. Is it a coincidence that Velaetis himself often refers to the Earth as a 'graveyard'? Of course, this has more than one meaning (the one I am giving it here), but it is because death metal has immersed itself so completely in 'reality' that it ceases to be inspiring as a genre, on the whole. And death - what seemed to most as the goal and main focus point of this movement - now becomes clear as only a method of transcendence in itself, both as a gate to further mysteries and the starting point of a return to life, braced with eyes filled with the sights of other worlds. Darkness Eternal wants to go beyond. What is death metal if it doesn't go past death...in that sense, beyond this life? If it is a paradox to quicken life by exploring death to the limits of its personal meaning, then I put my faith in paradoxes.
The best death metal, I think, reminds us of this problem, this complexity, or, rather, it puts it at the forefront of our minds by way of diffuse, abstract communication, on the other side of the reach of language or direct verbal signs. Perhaps what we need, in the end, is not so much a telling as a building, a world that we can enter wordlessly without the interference of our conscious efforts to interpret, and it is bands like Darkness Eternal that excel at this form of art, this bringing-into-being of personal dimensions because, in the end...it is perhaps the only way they can communicate effectively. 'Satanchrist', no matter what the lyrics may say or the overt concepts may point to, convinces on the merit of the music alone, the basic equations of guitars, bass, screams, and drums as they are converted into pure sound, pure form, and then translated back into meaning by my memories, my desires, my own anger, my own isolation, my own internal darkness.