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Elysian Blaze > The Virtue of Suffering > Reviews > oneyoudontknow
Elysian Blaze - The Virtue of Suffering

Comforting - 85%

oneyoudontknow, May 17th, 2021
Written based on this version: 2018, Digital, Independent (Bandcamp)

The description "single" in terms of a release of the funeral doom genre can be misleading. The Virtue of Suffering one by the Australian band Elysian Blaze is a track of over eighteen minutes. Minutes that some bands deem enough for an ep.

By listening to the music and by taken into account the genre this band has been associated with as well as considering the title, one might ask whether this amalgam actually makes sense. The idea behind this review is a hypothesis for explaining this release and on how the musical presentation is able to play into this.

As outlined in the title of this review, the music is rather comforting. It is rather, and this in a strange and somewhat confusing kind of way, pompous in style and relies on a considerable amount of layers and facets. Slow and steady in progression, slightly raw and distant, but all wrapped in a layer of keyboards. Is this symphonic funeral doom (maybe even sans metal), then? This label might indicate more than there actually is. The keyboards and ambient elements' job is rather to support the guitars and vocals as well as to enrich the atmosphere with additional facets. As can be seen on the Blood Geometry release, Elysian Blaze have a certain idea on how to express their peculiar type of black/funeral doom metal and have done so over the years. Very atmospheric, driven by the guitars and vocals, accompanied by the drums and what else is available, this has been the music of the Australian project especially on the two latest outputs. What both have in common is the creation of intense atmospheres.

It is all a bit different in this case and this has to do with the lyrics. "Soli Deo Gloria!" should be one aspect that makes you loose your step and the steady progress your mind might have had. What does it refer to? It is one of the "Five solae of the Protestant Reformation" [1]. Therefore it does not point towards Christianity on the whole, but rather towards one branch of it, but whether this was intentional should be left open for debate. The Wikipedia entry is worth reading and it gives an indication on what this release is all about. As the lyrics give the idea or might come over as a reference to chastening, those familiar with either the depressive black metal or the funeral doom genre might expect some kind of screams to express the torment, pain and horror. Such is actually not the case here. Instead, the vocals are a mixture of the croaking/screaming that also earlier Elysian Blaze albums had, as well as some that give the idea of reading a sermon from afar. This plays along with a rather focussed and hardly ever out of the ordinary routine in terms of the music. The synth element as well as part of the music breathe the air of church music: steady progression, grand in some respect and with warm sounds. And even though Elysian Blaze does not adhere to this path over the entire length of the release, it is still a dominant factor.

With all this in mind, "The Virtue of Suffering" lacks a portion of the intensity of Blood Geometry, the release prior to this one. While the guitars contribute something, they are reduced to something like a texture most of the time. It is possible to hear them and feel them, but their role is only to add volume and a certain structure to the track and concept. The same can be said of the drums and their style and impact is similar to what had been written about the guitars. It is their existence that matters and not what they express. Basically, the music can be separated into two factions: the keyboards and the rest. With a definite emphasis on the former, a kind of battle is fought for dominance, but in the end the path that is revealed in the beginning of the track, remains the one everything has to walk upon.

The music takes off rather slow and progresses steadily but limited. Layer after layer is added and some organ like sound introduces the main motif of the track. The vocals work as a focal element over the instrument and set the slow pace of the music. What follows is a first calm interlude, from which it progresses with an additional keyboard element. With these facet and a slight increase in tension, it progresses for a while. A crescendo of sounds is what makes up the middle part, only to break down again and make room for another calm interlude. And also in this case it is up the keyboard to set the mood with a keyboard motif. Narrative element appear in the next segment and then the final long part is introduced and build-up. In it earlier parts appear again and the keyboard motif makes a reappearance in various forms. The end is a long fadeout that is dominated by keyboards and without any vocals or other instruments.

Leaving the music aside, another aspect that needs to be discussed is the cover artwork. It shows the Fuente del Ángel Caído (Fountain of the Fallen Angel or Monument of the Fallen Angel) [...] a fountain located in the Buen Retiro Park in Madrid, Spain[2]. According to Wikipedia it has the reputation to be the only prominent sculpture dedicated to the devil[3]. Of course the background has been changed to black and certain elements of the statue have been emphasized. With the lyrics back in mind and the idea presented on the cover artwork the release closes in the utopian vision. A vision in which the shackles of the Fallen Angel, see Milton, have been broken or cast aside and the kingdom of God would be beneath those that now soar above him. The incantation of "Soli Deo Gloria!" appears to be an inversion of its original intention.

"The Virtue of Suffering" is a play with the expectations of the listener, a play of words and a play with images. It deviates from what the band had previously established in terms of music and sound. Blood Geometry had much more to offer in atmosphere, sound and facets, while this ep or single is rather calm and maybe even of a subdued type. There are reasons for this and these have been laid out in this review. Whether this release can be described as being metal is a somewhat tricky thing, but it never feels as one. Church music would be misleading, but it comes to mind. Of course this raises all sorts of questions: can the same "tool" be used for different purposes, is this invocation legit in the way it way used? And so on and so forth. Nevertheless, this is an interesting experiment by the Australian project.

Sadly, also the Latin has some errors again. Ad scoria, well that is not correct. Ad scoriam would have the proper declension, but it feels like a word by word translation and not like something that would have been said back then.