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Eclectic post-BM from Mr and Mrs Ihsahn - 80%

drengskap, April 30th, 2007

This is the third album from Peccatum, ending a four-year hiatus since 2000’s Amor Fati. Peccatum is now a two-piece outfit comprising the husband-and-wife team of Ihsahn of legendary Norwegian black metal band Emperor and Ihriel of Star of Ash. Ihriel’s brother, PZ, used to be in Peccatum, but has left to concentrate on Source of Tide, though he contributes some backing vocals to Lost In Reverie.

The foliage-encrusted cover photo is of a woman (Ihriel, I presume) lying in the bottom of a boat in a pose reminiscent of Millais’ famous painting of the drowned Ophelia. The album’s seven tracks total 50 minutes, and proceedings get underway with an atmospheric, cinematic overture of strings and whispered vocals. A rippling piano line introduces Ihriel’s achingly sweet voice, before the moods abruptly darkens with a crunching, pounding wave of Rammstein-like Teutonic metal – this is ‘Desolate Ever After’. The second track, ‘In the Bodiless Heart’, begins with acoustic guitar and a surprising drum’n’bass style rhythm track, courtesy of guesting percussionist Knut Aalefjaer. The song develops into a quiet, wistful ballad, until a meaty guitar riff turns up to remind us that this is Norwegian metal and not Björk or something. The first 87 seconds of ‘Parasite My Heart’ sound exactly like classic Emperor – ‘I Am the Black Wizards’ or ‘Curse You All Men’, perhaps. Then there’s the same piano / female vocal combination as on the first track – Ihriel’s voice is pure, haunting and distant, reminiscent of Jarboe or Julee Cruise. This loud bit / quiet bit alternation is characteristic of the album as a whole, in fact. ‘Veils of Blue’ has a shuffling jazz percussion line with unobtrusive bass, overthrown and disrupted by feedback-heavy guitar and Ihsahn on lead vocals (all lyrics are in English, incidentally). ‘Black Star’ contains the most sustained burst of Emperor-style metal to be found on this album, coupled with Ihriel’s vocals, and is my favourite track on this album. ‘Stillness’ includes Wagnerian horns along with grandiose, bombastic vocals and a solid, minatory riff. ‘The Banks of this River is Night’ is quieter with orchestral strings, piano, and Ihriel singing.

It’s difficult to know what to make of Lost In Reverie as a whole. It’s certainly not orthodox Norwegian black metal, though it does have its moments. It’s not really possible to rock out to, though – every time you get started, it goes all quiet again, in what I started to think of as an Ihsahn-bit, Ihriel-bit alternation. It bears some resemblance to the symphonic metal of bands like Blazing Eternity, Mysterium and Dornenreich, though Peccatum is more eclectic and experimental than any of these. More than anything else, though, I was reminded of Swans, not only because of Peccatum’s husband-and-wife collaboration, but also because Swans offered a similar blend of staggeringly heavy and light-as-a-feather moments. I’m not sure that Peccatum’s fusion of disparate musical elements is always successful, but it’s a bold attempt at a different, though decidedly dark, sound, and I like it more than some of Emperor’s more recent efforts.