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Left shoulder: "Hey! Let's review an album that defies categorization!"
Right shoulder: "What are you getting us into?!"
Little did I realize that the little devil always ends up beating that wussy angel into a pulp...every time. So here I am meticulously picking apart a sonic film-noir, a poetically-licenced, abstract couldron of beauty swirled with blood. This is the warm and chilling embrace of an album that only black metal sweethearts could give us, once outside the man's respective genre, and within the darkened heart of a demented and somber madame of the macabre.
Lovers Ihsahn and Ihriel Tveitan give us more than a peek into their bizarre world of still waters and turbulent skies. This album is more frightening than a Severe Torture song as remixed by King Diamond while watching a David Lynch movie. Yet, on the other hand, something serenely sentimental and beautiful gently brushes the abrasive pangs and edges of the framework here. What we have in our midst is a masterpiece of expression. There is absolutely no rating system that could possibly do something this vast and surreal justice. But, since protocol and necessity call for it; I shall go with the implicating 99%, for good measure. It's respect for true art that makes me do this. I could also understand certain beholders of this grotesquery to give it a 20% out of sheer introspection. It is quite shocking, afterall.
"Black Star" would probably be the best choice as an example of what lies within- yet that choice is far from encompassing. There is just too much variation loosely stretched across this landscape to wrap it up in one track. For such a seemingly suffocating exercise in tension, there is more room to breathe than one would guess. Those expecting Emperor-isms on "In Reverie" will be sorely discouraged, but will find tiny dashes here and there. Fanatical sailors-in-the-mist that is black metal's relatives (ambient recordings, industrial/gothic remixes, thrash/punk side-projects, etc.) might know a bit about Ihriel's old Aghast days; and will find a bit of that besprinkled on the layers of this funeral cake.
This is not an album for someone with a short attention span, however, the schizophrenic nature of this release is far from lackadaisical. This is a catalyst for times of lonesome reflection.
This is the third album from Peccatum, ending a four-year hiatus since 2000’s Amor Fati. Peccatum is now a two-piece outfit comprising the husband-and-wife team of Ihsahn of legendary Norwegian black metal band Emperor and Ihriel of Star of Ash. Ihriel’s brother, PZ, used to be in Peccatum, but has left to concentrate on Source of Tide, though he contributes some backing vocals to Lost In Reverie.
The foliage-encrusted cover photo is of a woman (Ihriel, I presume) lying in the bottom of a boat in a pose reminiscent of Millais’ famous painting of the drowned Ophelia. The album’s seven tracks total 50 minutes, and proceedings get underway with an atmospheric, cinematic overture of strings and whispered vocals. A rippling piano line introduces Ihriel’s achingly sweet voice, before the moods abruptly darkens with a crunching, pounding wave of Rammstein-like Teutonic metal – this is ‘Desolate Ever After’. The second track, ‘In the Bodiless Heart’, begins with acoustic guitar and a surprising drum’n’bass style rhythm track, courtesy of guesting percussionist Knut Aalefjaer. The song develops into a quiet, wistful ballad, until a meaty guitar riff turns up to remind us that this is Norwegian metal and not Björk or something. The first 87 seconds of ‘Parasite My Heart’ sound exactly like classic Emperor – ‘I Am the Black Wizards’ or ‘Curse You All Men’, perhaps. Then there’s the same piano / female vocal combination as on the first track – Ihriel’s voice is pure, haunting and distant, reminiscent of Jarboe or Julee Cruise. This loud bit / quiet bit alternation is characteristic of the album as a whole, in fact. ‘Veils of Blue’ has a shuffling jazz percussion line with unobtrusive bass, overthrown and disrupted by feedback-heavy guitar and Ihsahn on lead vocals (all lyrics are in English, incidentally). ‘Black Star’ contains the most sustained burst of Emperor-style metal to be found on this album, coupled with Ihriel’s vocals, and is my favourite track on this album. ‘Stillness’ includes Wagnerian horns along with grandiose, bombastic vocals and a solid, minatory riff. ‘The Banks of this River is Night’ is quieter with orchestral strings, piano, and Ihriel singing.
It’s difficult to know what to make of Lost In Reverie as a whole. It’s certainly not orthodox Norwegian black metal, though it does have its moments. It’s not really possible to rock out to, though – every time you get started, it goes all quiet again, in what I started to think of as an Ihsahn-bit, Ihriel-bit alternation. It bears some resemblance to the symphonic metal of bands like Blazing Eternity, Mysterium and Dornenreich, though Peccatum is more eclectic and experimental than any of these. More than anything else, though, I was reminded of Swans, not only because of Peccatum’s husband-and-wife collaboration, but also because Swans offered a similar blend of staggeringly heavy and light-as-a-feather moments. I’m not sure that Peccatum’s fusion of disparate musical elements is always successful, but it’s a bold attempt at a different, though decidedly dark, sound, and I like it more than some of Emperor’s more recent efforts.
Since I am a big fan of Emperor (R.I.P.) I didn't know how I was going to react on this effort of Peccatum. However, I'm glad to say that Ihsahn's musical quality has transcended the missed Emperor. The previous release from Peccatum -"Amor Fati"- was a very mediocre record which lacked coherent ideas. But this one is quite the contrary. This awesome, great dark Opus is the result of Ihsahn's exclusive focus on Peccatum.
With noticeable improvements in composition, musicianship and creativity, this album is light years away from "Amor Fati". Pushing the boundaries of extreme music into a brave new majestic sound, this work is full of dark and highly skilled motifs. Here we can hear clearly many influences of bands like Dead can Dance, Devil Doll, the later Arcturus and even some Emperor.
Peccatum's guitar work -curiously- is not the most relevant part, but when it comes out, it is in a very unique style; with a whole load of different sounds and a powerful variety of layers.
The beautiful piano sections are present in all the songs, giving a new spectrum of emotions to the music. Some songs have a couple of industrial effects, which adds more personality to the marvelous use of synths.
Always surprising with original parts, each song has its own -very personal- sound. However, the album can be perfectly considered like a whole unity. Ihriel sings far better than before because she has managed to find the perfect tone for her sensual voice (sometimes recalling Lisa Gerard of Dead Can Dance), while Ihsahn is using a wide range of vocals, from high clean falsettos (Like Garm in "The Sham Mirrors") to his typical black metal screeches. His clean singing gets better and better.
The album starts with an impressive "Desolate Ever After", a track which holds a dark atmosphere all along it. The synth and the Piano dominate here and a sinister heavy part comes out of nothing. "In the bodiless heart" merges together an uneasy eerie mood of clean strings with terrific jazz drumming, resulting in a strange but excellent song. "Parasite my Heart" has some black metal riffing but, suddenly comes a tempo change and melancholic themes take over aggression. "Veils of Blue" reveals awesome old synth arrangements with a heavy dissonant section in the middle. While "Black Star" starts with innocent tunes that drastically breaks into a skull-crushing distorted sound and then into a classical black metal riff that reminds me about the greatest moments of "Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk". "Stillness" is the darkest song of all. It's really amazing how the song evokes solitude, fear and sickness. Also it has nice arrangements and sound effects. Finally, there's nothing better for closing the album than a beautiful ballad like "The banks of the river is night", a classic hymn for the future.
If you wanted some Emperor stuff, forget it. There's just a couple of moments like that. But if you are open-minded and you like dark avant-garde music, then this is for you. An eclectic, exciting dark album which shows another side of Ihsahn's mastery.
Peccatum is a so-called Avant-Garde Black Metal project, Started originally by the Emperor frontman and her as the only two members. After 3 years Ihsahn disbanded from the group. Before the release of Lost in Reverie.
Lost in Reverie is not black metal whatsoever to begin with. It's gothic metal with progressive elements. The progress elements are quite interesting in the project and had kept me interested throughout the duration of the project. There are a few attempts at black metal moments which fail horribly. Basically this is gothic/progressive metal with an overdose of estrogen. Ihriel's haunting vocals are usually the backbone in the experimental creation of these epics, usually consisiting of 6-8 minutes each. Though despite this fact, Peccatum are very creative with the musical efforts.
There are very few repetitive moments in the song and each manage to remain interesting throughout. Ihriel, and Einar Solberg tend to switch vocal melodies back and forth. The vocals are pretty much clean throughout. Peccatum definately managed to write a decent metal release with Lost in Reverie. Very creative, but still overall not a release that can be all that interesting.