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Beauty - 90%

grimdoom, April 27th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2010, CD, Bindrune Recordings

If you've ever wanted to know what the primordial sounds of nature are at her most raw and primeval then you'll find it here. If the spiritual of the most primitive of man had, had access to electric guitars, this is what they would've played.

Firstly, this isn't for everyone. Secondly, this is the very epitome of extreme music.This music is shapeless, border-less and boundless. It's noise but it's not. It's anti-riff, but beautiful in its chaotic dissonance. Endless waves of effects driven guitar dirges wash over you again and again. These are accompanied by oddly evenly distributed notes that rise into each frame unnoticed until they hit their swell only to retreat and begin anew in the continuing tide of unfathomable emotional depths. Black metal shouts run almost underneath the vibrant and ever changing ebb and flow of the chaotic rhythms.

Each track offers something new, original and wholly unorthodox. As spacious as they are glacial, the songs hit you in an unending onslaught of ponderous and generally wonderful things. There are some moments of despair but overall, the albums title holds true. 'Where Life Springs Eternal' is something that has no peers. The atmosphere on this album redefines what most people could consider atmospheric.

This is high art in its most pure form, music that truly pushes the boundaries of what's acceptable and yet lacks the pretentiousness you typically find with such high minded endeavors. There's no mold here. Nothing on this disc fits any metal or musical conventions. Amorphous, poignant and vast are the harsh and soothing tones of this otherworldly music. Organic music in an inorganic time.

The production is better than you'd expect for such a cacophony. You can't really hear much aside from the guitars, vocals and percussion, but this isn't a problem as too much bass would've ruined this fragile creation. No, this album doesn't stray as far from their debut in terms of song writing, but there's enough variance to keep the attention of anyone craving unique sounds.

Grave and imposing epic but not really satisfying - 50%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, April 17th, 2010

US doom band Celestiial' second album may be a nature-oriented one but the first part of the introductory track will sure have you fooled: it's as heavy-duty industrial as it gets, all clanky screeching or vibrating metal tones over a throbbing rhythmic hum. But the machine noises pass after a few minutes, washed away by showers of gentle rain, birdsong and the distant boom of thunder. As it turns out, this track and tracks 3 and 5 are mostly ambient embellishments (with some plucked mandolin or harp-like melodies) to the two main events "Great Storms Carry My Sadness" and "Offering in Cedar Smoke" which together take up about nine-tenths of the album. Both of these could stand alone as two separate EP releases as they have an epic solemn ambience and drama and, to my ears at least, are very inward-looking; but as they are with the ambient interludes, they form some kind of narrative for the listener to work out.

"Great Storms ..." is a grave and imposing musical spectacle, heavy with gloom and sorrow in the slow thundering beats. Long guitar drones are very much like an orchestra warming up for what must soon be the climax as echoing voices in the background start wailing and screaming more in fear and misery, and the pounding beats become more regular and slightly faster. It seems worthwhile to hang around for what must soon be an eruption of noise and shrieking - but no, the action quickly draws back before a pleasant if slightly moody scene of field recordings of falling or swirling water, stormy weather and wandering bass. Eventually the music picks up its ponderous load but I have a feeling we've lost some momentum and direction here: the screaming continues but the droning guitars and thundering drums are now slowly grinding out a circular rut. A melody starts to play at long last which is some small consolation for those listeners feeling they've been dragged through an unending circular tunnel of monotonous sound. The tune is not inspiring and the coda when it comes is a lightweight let-down.

Like "Great Storms ...", the second long track "Offering in Cedar Smoke" is a plodding doomy affair that trawls through what might be deep dense temperate rainforests with honking birds flitting in and out. Such landscapes do exist in parts of western North America along the Pacific coast and in the extreme southern parts of Australia and New Zealand bordering the Tasman Sea and Southern Ocean so listeners familiar with these places will feel quite at home with this part of the album. The track has a clean feel as though the constant rains have stopped for the time being and the air feels cool and fresh. Apart from this the track isn't that much different from "Great Storms ..." as the background screeching carries on with no indication that it's ever going to stop or change into something else, and the music keeps on trundling along, going into a slightly different key perhaps, and getting ever more monotonous, until it disappears into another lightweight if very pretty nature scene.

For all the effort Celestiial exert in part of the first track and the two long tracks, the music ultimately doesn't go anywhere or resolve anything apart from hewing its own circular path in considerable pain and anguish. The peaceful bucolic imagery and emotional release as suggested in the short tracks seem too pat for all the effort the musicians put in and the torture we listeners had to subject ourselves to. I'd have liked Paradise, when we reached it, to have been less like ... well, less like a stereotypical Paradise where harmony and peace already exist and everything is in a state of never-changing balance. I'd have preferred a place more like what we know Nature actually is: a place and state of being where we still have to work out our relationship with one another and with our surroundings and end up generating a hundred different ways of organising human societies and living in balance with ourselves and fellow travellers on Earth.

I gather the album is intended to be a post-apocalyptical exploration of what's likely to happen to humanity when civilisation everywhere collapses. If that's so, it comes across as rather ordinary and stale as though a zillion other bands that have addressed this them reached the same conclusion over and over.

Interesting but difficult funeral doom - 70%

drengskap, March 14th, 2010

Where Life Springs Eternal is the third release from the Minnesota-based funeral doom band Celestiial, last heard from in 2008 with their split vinyl release shared with Blood Of The Black Owl. Celestiial was originally the solo project of Tanner Reed Anderson, but for this album, the band has expanded to a trio, with the addition of Timothy Glenn on drums and Jason Walton (also of Nothing, Subterranean Masquerade and Agalloch) on bass, leaving Tanner Anderson still in charge of vocals and guitars, as well as harp and bowed cymbals.

Where Life Springs Eternal – now there’s a title that doesn’t exactly convey the normal morbid death-instinct obsessions of doom metal. But of course, Celestiial’s music is steeped in mystical reverence for nature, and it encompasses both life and death, inextricably intertwined in the constant dying and becoming of the natural world. In this sense, they’re an archetypal Bindrune Recordings band – the Bindrune website bears the motto ‘Woodland Denizens Unite!’

The bulk of the album’s 56-minute duration is taken up with just two tracks, the 30-minute ‘Great Storms Carry My Sadness’ and the 16-minute ‘Offering in Cedar Smoke’, which are interleaved between three much shorter tracks functioning as an intro, interlude and outro. ‘Spell Over Still Water’ opens with a clamorous, atonal cacophony of Sunn O)))-style diffuse, downtuned guitar grind laced with grating squalls of feedback and sharp stings of bowed cymbal. Having seen how water in a singing bowl seems to seethe and boil as the bowl is vibrated, I imagine that any still water that this track was played over would become pretty agitated. This almost industrial opening section fades away into the soothing sounds of rain, birdsong and distant peals of thunder – field recordings of nature sounds are extensively used on Where Life Springs Eternal, as they were on the split LP with Blood Of The Black Owl.

‘Great Storms Carry My Sadness’ cleaves more closely to expected funeral doom norms, its solemn, crawling pace punctuated by cymbal smashes and shrieked vocals over warm, smooth (possibly e-bowed) guitar and bass harmonics filtered through gauzy veils of reverb. In quieter passages, the sound of rapidly running water provided a constant background hiss (the album cover has a photo of a waterfall, and the booklet is full of temperate rainforest images). There’s an entranced, intensely introspective feel to the track, simultaneously dejected and blissful, though it’s likely to try the patience of listeners of a less meditative turn of mind, and there’s little development or change throughout the track’s half-hour duration, just the mantric repetition of swelling, grandiose chords, eventually washed away by the rising sound of running water.

The album’s other long track, ‘Offering in Cedar Smoke’ is, if anything, even more tranced-out than ‘Great Storms Carry My Sadness’, a purring bass hum and a cavernous, monotonous beat providing the foundation for doleful, shoegazy washes of guitar, blackened vocal shrieks and mournful owl cries, locked into a frozen, stupefied rapture, something like a blend of Agalloch and Alcest.

In between these two sprawling leviathans comes the two-and-a-half-minute ‘From Elm Blossoms a Rose’, a delicately lilting embroidery of plucked harp with a distinctly archaic, Celtic feel recalling neo-folk bands such as Werkraum or Scivias, laid over birdsong and those endless gushing torrents of water. ‘Songbirds Depart Through the Passing Near the Garden’ closes the album with another couple of minutes of a simple plucked harp figure, with a very close, confiding, intimate feel, in stark contrast to the remote, impersonal grandeur of the longer tracks.

Where Life Springs Eternal is absorbing in parts, but the album as a whole does feel overly long and static even by funeral doom standards – I preferred the more various approach adopted on ‘White Depths Dove The Red-Eyed’, Celestiial’s side of the split LP with Blood Of The Black Owl. The harp parts on the third and fifth tracks are really beautiful, but the endless water sounds get a bit wearisome, and one long track rather than two would make the album less of an endurance test.

This review was originally written for Judas Kiss webzine:

From the subterranean to the skyline - 72%

autothrall, March 6th, 2010

Tanner Reed Anderson, Timothy Glenn, and Jason Walton (of Agalloch fame) return for their 2nd full length outing on Bindrune Recordings, and being partial to the great debut Desolate North, I had extremely high expectations going into this effort. Perhaps the stars are not perfectly aligned, or the value of its charms have simply yet to fully sink into my skull, because where I found a near complete rapture on the split with Blood of the Black Owl or the debut, I occasionally felt tedium during several of the 56 minutes of Where Life Springs Eternal. It's a good listen, and given the chance, it should immerse you almost as hopelessly as its predecessor, but the two often feel like day and night. And it's always a little easier to concentrate in the dark.

Now, Celestiial are not your average band playing doom or 'funeral doom' music, though some might argue that the spacious phrasing over the slowly crashing drums here is just as monotonous. No, this band is very true to their original, natural vision, to explore the vast and beautiful countryside of the United States through sonic improvisations. Desolate North was an excursion into both the minimal and gentle plucking of the guitar and the more dense, cerebral, violent compositions, and Where Life Springs Eternal is not the fruit of an entirely separate tree. The tracks presented here are diverse and improvisational, but more like a brazen, naked man parading about the places in the Land yet uncorrupted by civilization, spreading his arms wide and howling at the waterfalls of the cover image, his voice joining with the loud music of the atmosphere. It's simply not as creepy, even when it tries to be.

"Spell Over Still Water" is loaded with cascades of rushing rapid samples, feedback and noise, kind of like Nadja but with less of an intent to create harmonic abstraction. It attempts nothing. It simply is. "Great Storms Carry My Sadness" is perhaps the most depressing piece on the album, with waves of guitar and reverb that carry themselves across canyons and skies, Tanner's voice completely tortured like the Earth itself where it is marred and razed by the progress of mankind. It's also 30 fucking minutes you'll have plenty of time to think about it. "From Elm Blossoms a Rose" feels a lot more purposefully arranged, as samples of water complement a gently lulling piano, but "Offering in Cedar Smoke" is another lengthy number which returns to the band's gripping emotional turmoil, Tanner's black rasp haunting over the swells of guitar volume knobs, crawling cymbals and flutter of birds. "Songbirds Depart Through the Passing Near the Garden" is a short, somber closure to the album, moodily struck pianos and acoustics that send warmth down your spine as you settle yourself in the Earth.

I've got some mixed feelings about this sophomore effort, though ultimately the positives outweigh the moments of repetitious ennui that arrive through the longer compositions (or 'non-compositions'). Granted, those moments are likely intentional, and a band like Celestiial is not something you listen to if you're expecting riffs, melodies, or anything even bordering on traditional metal. This is the sound of the spaces between the music, as if you could pause time and meditate through each natural high and low. Desolate North was a lot darker than this, with shorter songs, and I believe I still prefer that side of Celestiial, which fucked me up but good. That's not to say Where Life Springs Eternal is all bells and whistles. It's hardly an uplifting experience, but the album title alone dictates that it's heart must center about some faint trace of hope.

At any rate, Celestiial do maintain their rare ability to create a sonic response to their environment, and this is one of the few 'nature' oriented bands that amounts to more than a busload of hippies that are as full of shit as they are full of marijuana and other medications. Where Life Springs Eternal may not be the most essential of listening, but it is still quite intriguing, and the next time you get an urge to listen to one of your soccer mom 'ambient sounds of the ' CDs that you picked up at the Discovery Store, I'd recommend that you try Celestiial instead. You may just not be the same again.


Celestiial - Where Life Springs Eternal - 70%

ThrashManiacAYD, March 6th, 2010

Ahhh, miserable rain-sodden tortuous funeral doom played at tectonic speeds...who doesn't love it? Minnesotans Celestiial, another Bindrune Recordings artist, are here with their second full length "Where Life Springs Eternal", an interesting choice of title either with some deep meaning I am unaware of or a healthy dose of humour given the prosaic and lifeless nature of it's recording. The funeral doom world isn't renowned for it's humourous side so I'd imagine it's the former of those two options.

I always find the rating of such funereal albums difficult given the stylistic limitations inherent in the fostering of a sound so reliant on atmosphere against the more common speed of the composition, which for the majority of "Where..." finds itself barely pushing double digit beats per minute. The rainy bleak introduction "Spell Over Still Water" slowly leads you the listener in without really doing much in it's 4 minutes before it is time to approach the gargantuan "Great Storms Carry My Sadness"; at 30 minutes long and a mixture of classic funereal procession and pained screamed lyrics interspersed with spacey synth, the lush sound of running water and even bird noise, it is one hell of a mindfuck. The sound is typical of a Thergothon-inspired funeral doom album, that being as black and desolate as is possible on planet Earth, with snare hits echoing off into the sounds of the netherworld and guitars high on reverb and delay, and in the construction of the songs too Celestiial are pretty formulaic. With two long songs on the record being surrounded by three shorter ones it is these that lead the descent into nothingness, changing little and travelling even less in the vast expanses of time that they eat up.

The theme of water is carried throughout the album, utilised in the pretty piano and acoustic guitar instrumental "From Elm Blossoms A Rose" until it swiftly clears to be replaced by the distant guitar tones of 16-minute "Offering In Cedar Smoke". Given the static nature of "Where Life Springs Eternal"'s main pieces it is left to the atmosphere being generated to lift the album above the pack, and thankfully for Celestiial this is their trump card. The vastness of their sounds, achieved primarily through the drum production and clever usage of guitar tones and feedback, rather than the easy get-out clause of heavy synth, is compelling as it sucks you into it's void generating feelings of total lifelessness and desolation in a post-apocalyptic human-free environment. While very much funeral doom in nature, this sound is reminiscent of black metallers Blut Aus Nord in it's colossally abstract and impenetrable feel and is the key ingredient to making "Where Life Springs Eternal" the good album that it is.

Though unlikely to achieve much adoration in the closeted and sparse world of funeral doom metal, Celestiial have at least provided an album certifiably better than the norm and a template which could be improved upon by them in the future with the mastery of atmosphere that has been displayed here.

Originally written for