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Beauty and Decay. Jubilation and Despair. - 89%

TheStormIRide, February 2nd, 2017

Glass Shrine released a short, three track demo in 2015, titled Impurities, which was well received in certain circles (small circles, unfortunately). The demo had a certain charm; unhinged and rather raw black metal that sounded surprisingly upbeat. Despite it’s short play time (at only eight and half minutes), it was one of my favorite demos of 2015. The project’s first full length offering, Lapidary, sees multi-instrumentalist/vocalist D.L. return with a fine continuation of the sounds presented on Impurities.

Lapidary offers nine tracks in the form of a delicate balancing act: light and dark; beauty and decrepitude; triumph and defeat. A cursory listen reveals blasting percussion and rangy yet melodious trem riffing, yet the closer one focuses in on the fiery flow, the more lustrous the glowing embers become. The title of the album, which refers to the art of cutting gems or the precision or refinement of expression, boldly embodies both portions of the definition. Despite the hectic presentation, careful thought was placed into each passage, crafted to elicit a constant ebb and flow of raw tremolo riffing and uplifting movements; seemingly morphing from standard dissonance into mesmerizing passages of flowing, yet aggressive melodies.

While it’s certainly a black metal album at heart, the almost faint rumbling bass that starts off “The Polestar of Movement” gives off a mid 90′s screamo/metalcore vibe while some movements seems rooted in post-punk (especially some of the cleaner vocal passages), yet through it all Glass Shrine manages to retain a triumphant black metal sound. Perhaps that’s the strongest element of Glass Shrine’s approach, this chaotic yet triumphant approach to something that is usually so dismal and dark. Sure the twisted trem riffs and blasting drums summon a darkness of their own, but it’s countered with upbeat pulses of something akin to tendrils of auditory hopefulness.

At first glance this is rather raw and abrasive, yet it has loads of melody and sheer creativity lurking beneath the surface. It’s my ardent hope that listens will give Lapidary time to worm its way into your subconscious. Memorable riffs, extremely well written lyrics, and a careful precision and attention to detail on songwriting rarely found in black metal; this album has all the trappings of a classic in my book. This is likely to stay in constant rotation in my stereo for a long time to come.

Written for The Metal Observer.

stopping to snort the roses - 84%

RapeTheDead, October 23rd, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, Digital, Independent

At some point, you have to ask yourself: Why do you listen to black metal? Many of us originally got sucked into the genre because of the morbid allure of it, with the origins of the genre rooted in murder, arson and general opposition to the status quo. At some point (i.e. when you become an adult), you probably realize that the extra-musical allure alone isn't enough to keep you engaged with what is often inaccessible, sloppy, and poorly recorded music. Since the genre's inception, though, a few musical traits have evolved that draw us in: tremolo riffs with simple but powerful melodies, repetitive blastbeats and song structures, raspy, cackling vocals (or Dani Filth screeches), and a focus on atmosphere that hearkens to blistering winter days of the frigid northern hemisphere. Somewhere along the line, weird Scandinavian kids with a rebellious streak codified an entire genre of music, and for some reason a few of us came to enjoy the musical characteristics they embraced.

What I'm getting at with all of this is that Lapidary forces you to step outside the box of what you normally consider a black metal band to be. From the outset, this checks all the boxes black metal normally does. There's lots of tremolo riffs, the vocals mostly consist of a mid-range rasp with a little bit of wetness, the drums are programmed to have a few pseudo-punkish frills scattered among the bed of blastbeats, and the album even has some spacey ambiance at the intro and outro tying everything together. Once the album runs its course, though, you're left with a sensation that is fundamentally different from the traits I described in the previous paragraph: this feels warm. Maybe I'm just getting thrown off by the atypically purple cover, but this feels like the antithesis to the frosty winter that black metal embodies. Even a band like Spite Extreme Wing, who have a sense of upbeat romanticism, have a certain underlying sense of seething fury that Glass Shrine lacks. That being said, comparing this to more sappy and melodic strains of post-black metal like Alcest and Harakiri for the Sky doesn't really do this much justice either. You could argue there's a shogaze/dreampop influence lurking in the shadows (check out the bending, swirling riffs in "Massive and Deafening" and tell me My Bloody Valentine doesn't come to mind), but there's a distinct lack of sadness and longing that usually permeates blackgaze. This is partially a product of the short and to-the-point songs structures on Lapidary that don't get all mopey and tread on riffs for way too long, but also a product of the major key that seems to be constant in the melodies. When you get right down to it, this is bright and positive in a way that you would not normally associate with black metal, and Lapidary falls under that genre only by indirect aesthetic association.

Now that I've attempted to dissect the style of this album and give you some proper context, we can get to the bottom line: is it good? "Happy black metal" is an interesting and novel idea in theory, definitely not an approach that's attempted often, but maybe that's for a reason. Ever heard the song "Fruhling" by Nargaroth? It's terrible. Sounds corny as shit. There's a fine line to tread here, and it makes you start to wonder whether or not the warm, lively feel of springtime grates against the detached misanthropy of proper black metal. Lapidary may essentially what "Fruhling" would sound like were it to be expanded into a full album, but Nargaroth obviously just wrote that song as a half-joke one-off of sorts. D.L. actually puts a degree of thought and seriousness into the concept, and as a result, it actually comes off as a legitimate attempt at something worthwhile. The riffs retain a similar feel all the way through, but there are a lot of extra frills tacked on to help give the album a little bit more depth. There's a few instances of some deep clean vocals, some of which work better than others. There's a bit of a wavering in pitch during the sung section in "Amethyst", but then there's sung sections like the one in "Hanged to Dry" that are impossible to get out of my head. A couple almost brutal death metal-esque growls show up every now and then as well. The drum machine is very well programmed, not only in its actual sound but also in the structure, with cymbal accents placed in unexpected spot, while still maintaining the flow very nicely--check out what the ride cymbal does on "The Polestar of Movement", for example.

Sure, this might not expand a whole lot past its execution of an original idea, but that being said, does it really have to? Lapidary doesn't need to be a genre-defining masterpiece, because it's creating a niche of its own. This is post-black metal that removes all the mopey melancholy and lingering DSBM influence, and my god is that ever refreshing to hear. Recommended if you're a black metal fan that's burned out on the genre and you want to hear something a little bit different.