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A March to Greatness - 95%

TimJohns, June 29th, 2020

Among the best black metal releases of the past decade, Great Cold Emptiness proves that this one man black metal project is a musical and artistic force to be reckoned with in the future. This album takes the best elements of black metal, shoegaze, doom metal and even folk metal by not only worshiping them, but by bringing them to new heights. From start to finish, this album embodies and displays themes of solitude, emotional burden and mental chaos. Despite these seemingly hopeless and gloomy sentiments, Miles Before I Sleep also projects an existential aura that captures feelings of courage, resiliency, promise and adventurousness. This album also shows the powerful relationship that music has with the universe, nature and the powers that be. Musically, Great Cold Emptiness draws from a plethora of influences, ranging from Agalloch, Drudkh, Esoteric, Lantlos and Skepticism to name a few.

The beautiful dimness of the opener "The Pain of Leaving" tied in with the fragile sounding keyboard melody is the perfect setup for the colossal and mammoth sounding track "Western Cave". Additionally, the choir in the background really helps add to the majestic sound that strongly emulates a battle scene from Lord of the Rings. The larger than life and epic sound gives the listener the impression that they are reaching for the heavens and perhaps encountering the mythological deities above. Subsequently, the ever mighty opening guitar riff on "Angel Outcasts & Idle Worshipers" has a warm organic tone that coincides with the album cover's desolate imagery. The dynamics and transitions in each track emphasize the meticulousness and attention to sonic detail displayed by the brainchild of Great Cold Emptiness, Nathan Guerrette.

Fascinatingly, Miles Before I Sleep resembles the structure of a novel, as the music meanders, weaves and fluctuates much like the rising conflict, climax and plot resolution in storytelling. Similarly to many classic novels, this is an undeniable driving force and motivation behind Miles Before I Sleep. Philosophically, Great Cold Emptiness's craft and sound demonstrate an interesting blend of nihilism and existentialism. The cold and bleak screeching vocals tied in with the warm and lively guitar riffs fully depict life's dilemma of finding existential affirmation and fighting through an existential crisis. Furthermore, the guitar tones also portray a somber spiritual aura and dreamy vibe that is reminiscent of shoegaze, drone and ambient tunes.

Conceptually, Great Cold Emptiness's strong artistic foundation touches upon mythology, folklore, history and even Americana which help solidify the lyrical and musical content of each song. The thematic elements from this album also interestingly relate to the best video game ever created, Red Dead Redemption 2. Both the video game and this album, represent a drifter and a wanderer exploring nature while also demonstrating the vitality of morality, the meaning of survival and the unquestionable value of the earth. Another strong element of Great Cold Emptiness's creative output is how Guerrette pays homage to the American black metal scene as well as notable geographical features and natural elements prevalent in the United States. At times, Miles Before I Sleep shows glimpses of distinctive musical production traits from classic American black metal works such as Weakling's Dead as Dreams and Wolves in the Throne Room's Two Hunters mixed in with some distinguishable funeral doom metal moments.

Vocally, the harsh screams and clean vocals help represent the emotional duality that depict on one hand, malevolence, and on the other, a cathartic release. Compared to many other contemporary black metal releases, Miles Before I Sleep is able to stay true to it's roots, origins and inspirations while also creating a product that is fresh, enthralling, captivating and memorable. In all realms of art, most renowned musicians, cinematographers, painters and photographers have humble beginnings whereas Great Cold Emptiness's first full length work is exceptional. Guerrette's work on Miles Before I Sleep clearly show that there will be many instances of musical excellence to come in the near future.