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Ephemeral - 78%

Daemonlord, March 23rd, 2015

Having been in existence for 11 years now, and with this being their fifth full length album, my own experience of Pestilential Shadows’ work has been as fleeting as their new album’s title – having heard a mere track on a compilation album. However, these guys garnered quite the reputation for themselves in the Australian metal scene as one of the finest purveyors of melody and sadness, whilst vehemently retaining the raw edge of tradition black metal. Having given ‘Ephemeral’ a solid chunk of my time over recent weeks, I’d struggle to disagree.

Getting the moody intro track out of the way, ‘Mill of Discord’ slowly creeps from your speakers in all its morose glory, simplistic repetitive melodies slowly distorting and shifting over time, akin to the face on some sort of Dorian Gray-esque haunted portrait, tricking the imagination with bursts of unimaginable sorrow and echoing with timeless misery. ‘Fragments’ does nothing to alter the unsettling nature either, resplendent with shimmering chords that billow like mist over dawn lit lakes, before shifting up a gear into a more pummeling – yet still somehow balanced and serene – creeping death knell. As albums go, you get sucked in by the cold atmosphere of this one right from the very off, feeling the familiar spine-tingle, and slowly watching the colour drain from your surroundings, whilst still being threatened with torrents of sporadic bile. It’s akin to a wounded creature, life slowly ebbing away, but flailing angrily out at any oncomers who should take advantage of their position before their life has fully slipped away. Coupling the coldness, there’s a lot of melody on display, but it’s not so much as to make it commercial or saccharine, rather used sparingly for pure emotive purposes.

‘Hymn of Isolation and Suicide’ actually starts out, I’m pleasantly reminded of Mutiilation, Xasthur and early Shining (though, perhaps not quite so raw, but with the same plodding miserable intent). At varying times, these guys also channel Scandinavia through the likes of Setherial & Lord Belial, but also the US via Leviathan and Weakling. So, there are plenty of varied flavours of black metal all bought together in to one frosty, funereal album. It’s hard to say they have a sound of their own, but when they do what they do so well, it’s not fair to criticise in my opinion. All in all, I’d have to say this is a triumph – measured and calculating, with the right amount of coldness, a heavy dose of depression and a dash of spite to add that extra tang. Brittle emotions, starkness and draining coldness – Pestilential Shadows revel in all that is moribund, so drink deep and become enveloped.

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