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Dark, Oppressive, Yet Beautiful Ambient - 83%

Thamuz, September 6th, 2006

She looked despairingly at the night sky - its vastness puzzled her, its ever-changing form disturbed her. “Where and what is true beauty?”, she had wondered to herself, begrudging her inability to recognize it. The moon shone through the woods as a night owl flew in front of it, infinitesimally illuminating the nocturnal creature in a scene of immense beauty. But it was only a momentary glimpse at beauty, never to be seen again in this exact form. Instead of answering the girl’s questions this incident raised even more questions. She was still unsure what beauty really was – perplexed by the infinite possibilities of the universe.

Elend’s ‘The Umbersun’ can be seen as the expression of man’s never-ending quest for an orderly existence, but more specifically it relates to his quest for Love. To achieve this, Elend adopt a somewhat orchestral based aesthetic, albeit non-traditional in its use of a programmed string section with occasional, tension accentuating percussion. On first hearing this the listener will most likely be struck by its oppressive nature, whether it be due to the spiralling minor key sections replete with the anguished screams of a madman or the decidedly calmer brooding sections with vocals of a more mournful choral or sung variety, strewn together into what initially comes off as a loose and wayward narrative compositional style. (It is as if these gentler sections are the calm after the storm, as the rays of sun reflect on what was, a return to clarity after the black clouds have drifted away.) But, after repeat listens the prior perception of Elend’s chaotic approach irons itself out and all comes together in a moment of recognition where all the intricacies of this vast work mesh together in a complete Gestalt like the tapestry that we call the universe. It is indeed a vast work, which with experience reveals many nuances and different moods heed new discoveries.

As was implied above, the work is one of great contrast. At times it is greatly reflective, with softer sections reminiscent of the ripples in a pond, but never far away is a violent surge of orchestral energy that is like a giant wave, plunging us helplessly into the darkest depths of the netherworld. Here the percussion will crash like an army of orcs smashing their spear shafts on the ground, forcing us to hide from the face of God as this omnipresent being unleashes a terrible wrath. These varying levels of tension flow in and out like the tide and are similar to that of an operatic work in their use of suspense. Indeed, it is somewhat unpredictable at times, but in this it is like human nature, especially the clashing of personalities in one’s search for unity. A whispered female voice, tinged with the fear of despair will relate the vast despondency that is found in the Cosmos, but this is soon contrasted with a more harmonious section to highlight the ultimate power of Love and its ability to rise above even the most arcane terror. The underlying motion, or it could be said urgency of this composition is representative of a striving, or a desire for a state of Love. The mournful female sung sections show a state of without. In this way the songs are organised into three triplets, each acting as the cycle of the seasons each representing a certain emotion or tempo, much like a classical work.

Some may say that this work is perhaps too theatrical, but it may be said that is like life itself. The excess of melodrama is justified, as it enables us to peer deep within the soul of a person, swimmingly passing through his or her angers, passions and desires in a dreamy whirlpool of thought, shown how it is to breathe and feel. Are we not merely play-actors in supplication to the mighty arms of Fate? Twisted and deformed, obsequious to his ceaseless Will. Here the drama inherent in the music is a source of a rollercoaster ride, just like our emotions in reality as we seek clarity and unity in a world where there is anything but. This is what best helps it communicate the Romanticist ‘warts and all’ approach to life - there will always be the dread of our mortality, but this may just be what makes life worth living – its unorderly, tragic nature. Returning to the opening paragraph, it could be said that real beauty may be the system of Nature itself. The fact that it does not make sense and contains no hint of rational order, may be that Order which we have all been looking for so desperately. In this view Christianity is inverted, the light of Life disappears and is submerged in the beauty of eternal Darkness. Death is worshipped, Struggle welcomed. May we revel in what Christ suffered on the twisted cross and die gloriously, fearless of Death, in his very name. And in a bizarre contradiction to folklore, Lucifer becomes martyr, shackled to a cross of his own, buried under man’s fear of mortality, forgotten in man’s adverse reaction to the Darkness of life. Death becomes life, life becomes Death, for glory in life is glory in Heaven. And thus the same for Love, it is only through constant struggle do we really find what we set out to find in the first place. In reality there is no ideal, nor a safe haven where we can take asylum in unremittent happiness. It is a testament to the brilliance of ‘The Umbersun’ that we are taken through a voyage of eternal sorrow in such a celebratory manner. Such is the poetry of life.

Drop-dead gorgeous album - 90%

Necrobobsledder, March 3rd, 2006

Bands that mix a myriad of styles of metal are always appealing to me, so when I read Elend's genre description I was very intrigued. To my delight, I soon found the album available for download on someone's music blog. It took a little while for this to grow on me, but now I'm having difficulty not listening to it every waking moment.

Elend play what is described as dark ambient/atmospheric/neoclassical/symphonic music, and you might be wondering why the word 'music' is there instead of 'metal'. Interesting inquiry, indeed, since the metal elements are sparse. There is no abundance of heavy guitars, riffing, and the like but rather a keen focus and reliance on huge, sweeping symphonic arrangements, choirs, and spoken word sections.

What really shocked me about this album is how exceedingly dark and sinister it is, despite the beauty of this music. Upon reading that the lyrical topic of the band is just Lucifer, I somehow came to the conclusion that that was very appropriate for the effect this music puts out. Yes, it actually sounds like the soundtrack to hell at times. Large, oppressive choirs, chaotic walls of string instruments and keyboards,etc., and the deliberate progressive moan of the spoken word sections truly make for a terrifying experience.

These spoken word parts aren't normally what you think of when you think of spoken word sections because they are in fact used for most of the duration of the album. The choir and other instruments will set up a backdrop, and some very sleepy, nihilistic spoken vocals appear that narrate some story dealing with the opposition of good and evil and all things infernal.

What's great about all these songs is that they take their time to develop and don't ever rely too much on bombast in lieu of atmosphere. The effect of the music is lull you into a beautifully depressive vortex of which escape is futile. Each song is slow to mid-paced and is accentuated by the solo female vocals, choir vocals, spoken vocals, and symphonic atmospheres. Each one is great in its own way and the absence of any of these wouldn't make for quite as great of a synthesis of doom. Listening to it is much like listening to the soundtrack for a horror flick, albeit one that isn't too commercialized.

My only complaint about this release is that at times there really seems to be too much going on in the music. They should focus more on really bringing out the sound of each individual instrument in the mix. Also, I would like for there to be more piano sections and more of a guitar influence in the music. Not much, mind you, because too much would tarnish the soundscapes and individuality of this band. I'm just looking for a little more of an effort to show they are a metal band and can be identified as such.