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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.