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On the strength of this demo "Within the Abyss of Solitude", I predict that the one-man atmospheric black metal act Pravus Abyssus will be one to watch out for over the next several years. In an increasingly competitive field of BM acts - the years from 2010 to 2020 at least might well constitute something of a Golden Age for US black metal in its reach across the country - Pravus Abyssus offers a distinctive and powerful if bleak vision with the music and songwriting skills and arrangement to back it up. Especially in its second half where there are spoken voice field recordings, the demo comes across as a soundtrack to a short film that could be of a highly personal and intense emotional nature.
The recording divides into three tracks but it's better heard as if it were one over-arching work. The first track works as an introduction of deep cavernous murk ambience with the occasional echoing drum beat. "Crystal Chimes" shows off the essential Pravus Abyssus (given that this demo is the only release PA has given the world so far): constant blizzard-storm noise guitar texture steered by thumping though rather thin drum-beats, over which a thin raging vocal screams and background synth wash smooths over some (but not all) the jagged edges of the music. Rain and tumbling water field recordings and the odd off-kilter string-based doodle add another layer that enlivens the track. "Eden" plays out as a mini-soundtrack to a short film with spoken dialogue recordings of a man and woman who might be stand-ins for Adam and Eve of Biblical legend: the music is a mix of steely machine-like black metal and sinister doomy space ambience.
Individually the tracks are not great but together they create quite a powerful work of different moods that might refer to the creation of the universe, the birth of humanity and the rise of evil among humans. The music is varied and much care and craft has been put into it, not only in the individual tracks but in the tracks together as if they were movements in one unit. Even if listeners can't fully understand what is going on, they can definitely trace a narrative threading through the whole demo.
I really think this demo could have been longer and the second and third tracks more developed with a bit more intensity but as it is, Pravus Abyssus's first release is very good indeed.
Within the Abyss of Solitude is an excellent little chunk of black metal with a cosmic bent, much like Darkspace and, more recently, Alrakis, incorporating key elements of both and infusing some new ones into the mix. From the former, Acerbus takes the capacity for rolling, crunchy riffs and melodies, but he does not fall into the trap of over-repetition Darkspace occasionally does, and incorporates them only where the song structure calls for them. From the latter, he takes the ability to craft solidly atmospheric, yet still highly melodic, ambient tremolo-driven sections.
The songwriting as a whole, however, is the real standout for me. The individual songs support each other extremely well, much like in a good symphony, and what really strikes me in particular is the flow. No individual section of any song goes on for too little or too much time, and the way they string together simply serves to magnify the impact of each section. Indeed, though the riffs and melodies are memorable and excellent in their own right, the structure is so well-thought out and well-implemented that I feel this demo still would have been stellar had the riffs been generic instead, as long as the structure was maintained.
When I first got ready to listen to this release, however, I was hesitant. I feared the stereotypical poor production quality of black metal demos from ages past. When the music actually started playing, though, I was pleasantly surprised. The production ended up being quite good, having both good mixing and a nicely well-rounded quality that allowed it to accommodate both ambient and full riffing passages equally well.
In the end, I am very happy that I stumbled across this floating around the internet, and look forward to whatever Pravus Abyssus releases down the line.