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Where talent meets hubris - 57%

we hope you die, October 20th, 2020

Sitting somewhere between Midnight Odyssey and Desecresy (a thesis that will be expanded upon momentarily), France’s Dysylumn offer up an album that – whilst not earth shattering – is certainly a beast all of its own. Although the chief intention seems to be an outdoorsy atmosphere, there is more going on at the nuts and bolts level than is typical for such hazy black metal. The guitar tone definitely fits with the intention of creating massive open spaces with this music, but not in the sense of harsh, unrelenting natural forces, but leaning more towards cosmic joy and wonderment at the expanses of the night sky. Hence the Midnight Odyssey comparison. But whilst the latter artist is prone to absurdly self-indulgent meanderings, Dysylumn reign this in somewhat with some….riffs? They still sadly come up short on a justification for the bulky runtime and lack of variation in intensity however.

The riffs themselves are predominately formed of lead and rhythm segments, with the guitar tracks operating primarily with harmonies and counterpoint. A large chunk of this is articulated through high-end leads of simple tremolo strummed note patterns, which in their near constant presence does indeed call to mind Desecresy in technique if not in the final impact. But much like the industrial minded Finnish death metallers, constructing an album of soaring leads over lower end chord progressions works in theory, but requires more variety in key and tone before being brought to bear on a long play album. And this is a very loooong play album indeed, at over an hour and twenty minutes in length, there is just not enough going on to warrant this self-indulgence, which again provokes Midnight Odyssey comparisons.

Dysylumn do their best to give this music the illusion of motion. The rhythm section is hard working, ensuring that there are regular shifts in tempo, the fills make sense around the builds and falls of the riffs, and blast away if the moment demands it. But the real problem is one of timbre and dynamics. Aside from an ambient interlude, into and outro, this is a near constant pounding of heavily compressed, reverb drenched guitar, working its way through intriguing but hardly compelling riffs. And the fact that there is a relentless layer of lead guitars working in unison with this most average of foundations does not save this album from becoming a complete slog.

Vocals do their bit to vary the tones that meet our ears, exploring the lower to mid-range of the distorted pallet. But the compression pretty much supresses their impact in favour of the all dominant guitars, that wash out any nuance or complexity to both the vocals and the melodies of they are actually playing. These choices in tone can work in the right context. But if we are to be invited to listen to it for this length of time then the compositions need a lot more going on, or else they need to be broken up by some variation in mood.

I’m coming down hard on ‘Cosmogonie’ because of its length for the reasons stated above, but also because of the sheer hubris required to put out such weighty material. Dysylumn are sadly not unique in this regard. Now that digital recordings are so easy to lay down and release into the aether from the comfort of home, temporal size has seen an ever upward trend. But it baffles me that quality control and creative filter discipline are such underrated commodities in modern metal. Partly for the simple reason that it strikes one as common sense. But also the presumption that the music was worth the time over other, more efficient works. Not only does it kill the impact of what quality material is actually present on the album, but it smacks of unwarranted self-assurance. For an album to reach into the region of an hour takes some pretty special material. And ‘Cosmogonie’, despite offering some hints of uniqueness, just ain’t it.

Originally published at Hate Meditations

Non-ordinary atmosphere - 86%

Colonel Para Bellum, October 16th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, Digital, Signal Rex (Bandcamp)

"Cosmogonie" is the third full-length album by the French black metal band Dysylumn. What is this album? "Cosmogonie" – it's primarily atmospheric black metal with chresthomatic for this genre long and monotonous tremolo picking riffs, full of emotionally charged tunes. Pleasing, if not distinguished melodies are constantly heard here – like brick by brick, they build an atmosphere of the nocturnal journey in transcendent sadness. There is no cosmic cold here (in tremolo picking), it's even some kind of astral heat. But of course "Cosmogonie" is not ordinary atmospheric black metal by any means. To understand the non-ordinariness of this album, we need to understand what this album is not.

So, what is this album not? First of all, it is not post black metal. Although the tempo changes frequently throughout every song, although a good deal of genres are mixed here, although strange breaks occur here, it cannot be said that the structure of the compositions is complex: Dysylumn love to repeat what has already been said, to return to the beginning of the song and to savor successful melodies and fragments. In general, it is quite obvious that all the songs (well, with certain presumptions) are created using the same template, and if going into details, "Apparition III" can be awarded a medal for uniformity and monotony. All this is not post black metal at all.

There's no debate, that this genre can be recognized in its pure form on "Cosmogonie". Just take the slow passage in "Extinction II" from 5:45 – dissonance is used in this strange melody, and screams, overflowing with emotions, ah, really agonized shrieks – they aggravate disempowerment – yes, this is quite post black metal. But although dissonance is used for dramatic effect with might and main on "Cosmogonie", this is just a specific episode, and there are very few such passages on the whole album, so they should rather be regarded as an experiment, and nothing more. Perhaps Dysylumn set foot on the path towards post black metal, however, they sat down to rest in the middle of the way, so they never reached the goal. At its best "Cosmogonie" is atmospheric black metal with "experimental injections". And of course it is modern black metal.

So, what else is this album not? This album is not death metal. There are very few pure death metal elements here again, but that is not the point. The death metal technique is concentrated in the rhythm guitar parts, and it creates the atmosphere, which is exactly the opposite of what is contained in the tremolo-picked atmosphere. It's cold, it's ominous, it's threatening. No hope in the rhythm, no heat in the rhythm. It acts as a kind of counterbalance to the lead, they nearly conflict with each other, but a harmony is born as a result of this struggle. The most striking example, perhaps, is "Dispersion III": the lead offers the fingerpicking patterns, a bit atonal, so involuntarily you think about post black metal again, but the rhythm plays here the classic death metal part, dry and brutal on the verge of Monstrosity, although, perhaps, it sounds more like the same Gorguts or early Gorefest.

The thesis that there is a continuous threat in the death metal parts is easier to understand in another example: "Extinction I" starts with a mid-paced groove rhythm enriched with dissonance, and then this threatening rhythm remains as an accompaniment to the arising tremolo. It's weird for atmospheric black metal, anyway it's atmospheric black metal. By the way, we cannot fail to notice that the "death metal-ish" rhythm guitar is taking over more and more positions by the end of the album. Anyway, when in "Apparition III" a little atonal "squealing" of chords sounds from 4:35, the rhythm does not seem to be such an emotional counterbalance.

The bass guitar often serves a similar function, bringing disturbance to the well balanced world of atmospheric black metal. Pay attention to the beginning of "Dispersion II": both guitars performs high-pitched riffs here, we have classic atmospheric black metal parts, so the atrabilious aggressive bass can be made out quite easily in the background. It gnaws at the hated heavens, and its part has nothing to do with both vital guitar parts. Perfect specimen. "Dispersion II", by the way, is also notable for its bridge at 1:55, where the guitar is picking with ("thrash metal-ish"?) palm muting to the accompaniment of the bass drum pulse.

Low growling vocals also work with all their strength for the illusion of death metal, especially since they are in great harmony with "dry" rhythm guitar – there's no denying, if only to note that these vocals are not so brutal, they are characterized by some "black metal-ish" roughness. And although Dysylumn are doing their best to diversify the vocal palette of "Cosmogonie", – from the very first song they use both choral singing and singing with a clear voice (especially the episode in "Dispersion III" at 6:40 comes under notice, it's a pity that it is too short), plus sometimes the female vocals join in, – nevertheless, the almost-visceral vocals dominate. Needless to say, the effect of mixing atmospheric black metal with the death metal growls is unusual. But if the usual high pitched shrieking vocals were used on "Cosmogonie", then it would be even depressive black metal, maybe, yes, maybe, but it doesn't sound anything like depressive black metal at all. This kind of vocals works like a cold that doesn't lull you to sleep, but makes you move forward, – the brightest example is "Dispersion III" again.

What else is this album not? After depressive black metal has been mentioned, we should go even further and claim that this album is not doom metal. It's much more obvious than in a case of death metal. The slow passages in the spirit of Argentum, Katatonia or Opera IX make themselves felt in the very first song, and thanks to their exquisite melodies and against the background of frequent blast beat-laden sections they seem to be the embodiment of sorrow. Nevertheless, there are very few pure doom metal parts on "Cosmogonie". In "Dispersion I" a despondent and hopeless riff, a little atonal again, sounds from 1:55, female muttering inflames the atmosphere of this fragment, but only starting from 2:45 we can talk about old-school doom metal – classic solo reigns here. Thereafter, of course, this sad part is repeated.

"Extinction II" uses the same trick as "Extinction I", but now the death metal passage is quite slow and depressive, very similar to Thergothon, but apart from that, everything is the same – the rhythm in the background creates a fundamentally different atmosphere than the one from the lead part. Anyway, from 1:55 purest doom metal sounds. Perhaps, these are all specific examples – in most cases it's more appropriate to talk only about the elements of doom metal. For the matter of that, the slow majestic riff at 2:59 in "Apparition II" makes you think about gothic metal influence – but there is no sugariness here, that's for sure.

The list of styles used by Dysylumn on "Cosmogonie" can be adequately completed by pointing to ambient / drone (there can be no talk of progressive metal attributed to the band), but even the names of tracks sustained in this style ("Intro", "Interlude", and "Outro"), says that ambient / drone humming sound has an auxiliary / preparatory function.

In summary, all this "what this album is not" is what makes Dysylumn's atmospheric black metal unique.

The Metal Observer