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Black Metal album of the year - 98%

JJM1, January 13th, 2013

Back in '07, Spectral Lore, the solo project of Greek musician, Ayloss, surprised me greatly both musically and visually through his second full-length album, simply titled, 'II.' A five year gap between albums allowed Ayloss time to work with his death metal band, Divine Element, before returning to work on Spectral Lore and yet again here in 2012 releasing another ambitious album titled, 'Sentinel.'

Forgoing the rawer black metal approach and toning down on the lengthy ambient sections, the listener is abused with an arsenal of Deathspell Omega-ish styled riffs as well as the more repetitive tremolo picked style the genres known for. Each of the songs come on furiously and toss A LOT at the listener, this however is no mere copy, as the whole thing is a heavily layered and experimental affair. Often switching between abrasive bludgeoning rhythms, mid-paced streaks, calmer dirge like sections and spacey ambient outros, 'Sentinel' feels more epic in its overall scope, but still dissonant and chaotic enough where its going to require several listens before it coalesces in your mind.

The first two songs, 'All Devouring Earth' & 'The Dejection Of Arjuna' have the habit of being powerful and overwhelming in their delivery, though each also feature a portion of symphonic and dazzling melodies that sound fresh, majestic and impressive amongst such bedlam. I fully realize that doesn't make since but somehow Ayloss managed to make the opposite ends fit, its discordant while being accordant, and its honestly breathtaking once you get used to this mans style.

'The Coming of Age' has a bit more of traditional and speedier approach, but still doesn't skimp on the melodic parts whatsoever, while 'Quest For The Supramental' just builds and builds, slowly, but around the five minute mark breaks free with an almost death metal-ish sounding rhythm before slowing up again in favor of a more ethnic sort of vibe that reminds me of the interludes from Teitanblood's 'Seven Chalices.' 'My Ascension Into The Celestial Spheres' is all over the place as far as speed is concerned, but much like the last song it builds and escalates towards the stars with its fair share of epicness and smooth ambiance to end it. 'Atlus - A World Within A World' concludes the album on a high note, though one that many might not find agreeing. As a thirty minute purely ambient piece, its definitely different from the violent nature of the previous five songs, but fans of the genre will be delighted by this transcendental spacey composition.

I also have to point out that the digipak is absolutely stunning, featuring a gorgeous cover artwork as well the art and lyrics within the booklet are something to behold. If there's really anything to speak negatively about, its simply the fact that the recording is rather quiet, despite being well produced. I'm not sure how that happened or if my ears are just worse than I previously imagined, but its sort of frustration to have to turn the volume up to levels I'd normally never hit.

As a whole, were talking seventy five minutes here, 'Sentinel' is no easy ride, at first, but after numerous spins it really manages to make sense. Between glorious guitar melodies, pummeling and well played drums, marvelous symphonic and ambient undertones and enough action both calmly and destructively to satisfy any eclectic black metal listener, 'Sentinel' is where its at! I adore the way each listen seems to reveal something I previously missed, either something synthetic, or a particular guitar riff or even Ayloss' guttural vocal approach always seem different with each subsequent exploration. That doesn't happen often.

Furthermore, I simply can't recommend this one enough, and if it wasn't the end of the year and if I actually paid more attention to newer releases I wouldn't, but since it is, and I don't, I will.

Spectral Lore's 'Sentinel' is by far the finest black metal record I've heard this year. Nothing comes close to touching the diversity of the songs arrangements, the brilliant, epic and mesmerizing nature of the whole thing and the fact that is was created by just one individual seems impossible, but it is. You'd do well to check this one out, because I'd imagine like most of his releases its probably limited and wont be around forever...

Originally posted at Lunar Hypnosis (http://lunarhypnosis.blogspot.com)