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The Glory of Black Metal - 99%

devletli, July 25th, 2018

I have been listening to this album for the past months now. Always trying to find an angle to approach, to analyse and review. And always failing, since the album instantly “absorbs” me, commands every bit of my attention, and I ultimately immerse in an hour-long journey into an ever-changing black metal landscape, a state of hypnosis. Yet I review it, or waste my time trying. But actually “Tabernaculum” leaves so small room to words, its self-expression of what it is is hardly comparable. There is not a moment of directionless filling, an out-of-place note, a low-point unworthy of this evident masterpiece. The album crawls under your skin. It just doesn’t let go. And I keep myself uttering, “what are you doing, Mr. Rebirth of Nefast?”

The project is the brainchild of Stephen Lockhart (aka Wann), who (it seems to have) founded the psychedelic, demented, cosmic and (in all its senses) cold Icelandic school of black metal that we all love. As a commended producer, the album is (expectedly) tight as a ship, boasting quite a thick, bass-y guitar sound (with minimal reverb), complemented by keyboards/fx and raunchy and thick vocals befitting the overall sound. Here you hear every pick of the instruments, through a thick and rich wall of sound, as you delve further into the insanity that is Tabernaculum. He is accompanied by another familiar face, Bjarni Einarsson, who plays the shit out of those drums. I have commended before the main man + drummer formula and this is a prime example.

The album takes its time, as evidenced by its hour-long runtime of six tracks. It opens oh so slowly and silently, introduces a repetitive riff, turns even more silent and whispery, only to explode around the five minute mark. What follows is quite indescribable, constantly changing pace and mood, keeping on exploding, evolving, reaching inhuman heights and unimaginable depths. You just can’t help a headbang, a jaw drop, a goosebump or whatever this behemoth of a musical experience commands in that particular moment. It is cosmic, militaristic, cold, cavernous, atmospheric, masterful, experimental, psychedelic, hypnotic, doomy and energetic all at the same time.

Tabernaculum sets the bar too high. 99/100 because of the unrealistic standards it sets and the shadow it casts on future releases. Black metal is glorious.


Deathly Revelations. - 100%

DSOfan97, December 7th, 2017

Rebirth of Nefast's Tabernaculum is too good to be true. That phrase could sum up the entire album, but of course this is supposed to be a review so I'll be more specific. The cliche phrase; As you sow you shall reap also fits the album quite a lot. Tabernaculum (roughly translates to pilgrimage and literally means the sanctuary wherein the ark of the covenant was kept by the Jewish people while the wandered in the desert) has been in the works for almost a decade-nine years to be precise. That should reassure the listener that every tiny detail has been worked and reworked to the point of being no more improvable. Stephen Lockhart (aka Wann) has been clear about his first studio album; he wouldn't compromise until perfection was achieved. And thus it was done; nine years of work passed until perfection was there, in aural form. Then every piece fell into place and the album became even more perfect in the non-aural aspects. The artwork was done by many well known artists and the prestigious Norma Evangelium Diaboli curated the release amazingly.

Getting into the music itself, Wann balances between black metal, doom metal and unearthly ambiance, incorporating some unexpected instruments such as lutes and bouzouki to add texture to the guitars and layering everything multiple times in order to add depth to the recording. The result is mesmerizing. A truly abyssal album of immense proportions that not only illustrates darkness, but comes forth out of it.

This past decade saw Wann moving to Iceland, setting up Emissary Studios and essentially becoming responsible for the entire wave of Icelandic black metal that burst without warning after Svartidauði's Flesh Cathedral which was produced by Wann. Around that time Tabernaculum was already conceived as an idea and beginning to take form. Many years have passed since then. Gear has been bought and ultimately left aside. The mixing and mastering process couldn't take longer probably. However the final outcome justifies everything.

I am in general prone to give high scores to albums that I like and just a glimpse at my reviews should serve as proof of that. And that worries me, that should one read this review, he would probably take what I say lightly. This album deserves nothing less than a perfect score. It is a remarkable achievement, completely astonishing and deserving of total respect.

The First Born of the Dead features some female vocals that coalesce with Wann's deep bass voice making the moment a hundred times more reverend. Carrion is a Golden Throne goes into an ambient passage early on resulting in a manic breakdown of howling guitars before the ambiance devours the previous outburst and a slower passage appears again. Dead the Age of Hollow Vessels ends with some shiver-inducing harmonized lead guitars that announce the end of the album as a whole. And apart from the stringed instruments, handled by Wann one should not overlook Bjarni Einarsson's fantastic drumming that truly adds to the harrowing atmosphere and at times shines all on its own.

There is no shortage of guitar flourishes despite the excessive ambiance that enshrouds the work. There is no shortage of anything to be honest. The lyrical content is enigmatic and highly spiritual. The way that every word is uttered justifies its place in the lyrics. There are absolutely no loose ends left with Tabernaculum and don't get me started with the production. Mixing and mastering wise, this is a seminar of exemplary sound engineering. There are six long tracks in here-try and decipher when one ends and the next starts without looking at your media player whatever it is (CD player, pickup or even digital platforms that allow the album to be heard as a whole). You won't be able to get them all. It all works as one lengthy track that sinks in its own atmosphere and then arises again.

The six deathly revelations that Wann offers in Tabernaculum are nothing less than a pilgrimage. True to the album's name he created a monument that works as a reminder of what a single individual can produce given the talent, inspiration, time and resources needed in order to fully realize his vision. This album will become one of the most important parts of this decade's artistic output. A true piece of uncompromising, challenging art, further solidifying Wann's legacy, but this time as a composer rather than producer. And no matter if a second Rebirth of Nefast album ever becomes reality, Tabernaculum should stand tall unaffected by time and environmental changes. No matter what happens to black metal, Tabernaculum is a genre of its own. And it is high art.

Favorite tracks:
1)Listen from start to finish.
2)Sit and contemplate when it's over.
3)Repeat steps 1 & 2.


Suffocating death - 95%

forfrosne, June 18th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, CD, Norma Evangelium Diaboli (Digipak)

It has been nine long years since Rebirth of Nefast‘s last record, Ex Nihilio, a split album with fellow Irish black metal group Slidhr. A lot has changed since then. The black metal project’s mastermind, Irish-born Wann (aka Stephen Lockhart), has since moved to Reykjavik, Iceland and set up the Studio Emissary recording studio, founded the Oration Records label, and put on two successive and successful extreme metal festivals in the heart of Iceland’s capital. He’s been responsible for producing, mixing, and mastering some of the most exciting names in contemporary black metal: Svartidauði, Sinmara, Zhrine, Abominor, Almyrkvi, Mannveira, and Draugsól, as well as Mortuus Umbra, Dysangelium, and Slidhr. He’s also recorded and performed live with Sinmara and Slidhr. The resplendent full-length album Tabernaculum is the culmination of nine years of hard graft; of writing, recording, and producing some of the best extreme metal around, and learning and growing as a writer and a musician.

Black metal certainly forms the core of this band’s sound, but the longer songs on this record often change gears, unleashing crushing passages of blackened doom metal; heavy, droning, and deeply unsettling moments wherever they appear. Other moments threaten to tip over into the death-doom of Incantation. These influences are balanced perfectly, and the strength of the songwriting on Tabernaculum is difficult to understate. The way the songs ebb and flow, the dynamics at play between the chaotic, dissonant aggressive sections and the more subdued, melodic passages; it all feels perfectly balanced and coordinated. The diverse range of textures and ideas that this album threads together is breathtaking. The tasteful, subtle addition of melodic female vocals on ‘The First Born of the Dead’ push the song over the line from ‘Good’ to ‘Great’. The aggressive assault of ‘Alignment Divine’ is majestic in its utterly deranged majesty. The dissonant, deeply unsettling guitarwork and terrifying howls and roars give way to darkness and despair, before returning in all their fury again. But as with the other songs, the aggression and technical ferocity are always placed within the broader context of an utterly suffocating, morbid atmosphere of death. The sense of madness and desperation, urgency and despair permeate this record.

On an initial or cursory listen, it is easy to miss the numerous smaller details that are incorporated into this album, but which subconsciously worm their way into their mind and enhance the various effects or moods of the songs. The sprawling opening and closing pieces ‘The Lifting of the Veil’ and ‘Dead the Age of Hollow Vessels’ embody the full strength of Wann’s songwriting chops. The former’s mellow introduction belies the sinister endeavours yet to come, and the texture of its dirge-like opening crawl is enriched through the use of moaning choir vocals and dissonant chords, and the deeply unsettling, off-kilter acoustic section is a stroke of genius. Despite the subtleties of this opening foray, the black metal fury that follows is blistering, with thunderous blast-beats and disturbing, frenzied guitarwork. ‘Carrion is a Golden Throne’ is absolutely the standout track from this album’s middle section, weaving diverse ideas and motifs into visceral black metal aggression and an occult, morbid atmosphere.

Tabernaculum is a sinister, rich and complex black metal record, capable of both devastating aggression and haunting, unsettling melody. The masterful songwriting keeps the album feeling dynamic and exciting, even at over an hour in length, by weaving together a wide variety of influences and ideas into the album’s musical texture. Tabernaculum is without a doubt Rebirth of Nefast‘s magnum opus; a daring, challenging record, but one which rewards the careful, patient listener.

Review originally written for Metal Void.

Boiling Chrism - 100%

torchia, March 27th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, Digital, Oration (Bandcamp)

It would be too easy to label 'Tabernaculum' a magnum opus, to box it off and send it skyward amid the loftiness of similarly top shelf creations. As much as it is wholly deserving of the accolade, there would exist an indolence in such an action, and this long-anticipated full-length from Rebirth of Nefast is worthy of far greater trophies, far greater than the likes of Album of the Month, or even Album of the Year can ever truly bestow.

A record essentially 11 years in the making (from the advent of the auspicious 'Only Death' demo in 2006), 'Tabernaculum' is a veritable labour of love, though such a term may be unsuitable when utilised in reference to black metal. Like all staggeringly brilliant releases, it endured mixed fortunes over the years, wrestling rewrites and near abandonment, as Stephen Lockhart (aka Wann) found himself unwittingly helping to craft (via the art of studio wizardry) what we today know as the 'Icelandic sound', as well as operating full-time within acclaimed act Sinmara, and lending a live hand to Irish black metal powerhouse Slidhr, the dauntless project of longtime co-conspirator Joe Deegan.

In purely production terms, 'Tabernaculum' is a marvellously clean, tight and modern black metal record with quite an incomparable sound and compositional variety. This belies the level of heaviness on offer, most notable when the more funereal, hypnotic sections give way to twisted discordance and almost inhumanly precise blasting. Additionally, in keeping with Rebirth of Nefast's approach and output to date, the album is lean to within an inch of its life - all fat removed - nothing at all superfluous, despite its liberal use of layering and one hour plus duration.

Lockhart's studio time with noteworthy acts like Svartidauði, Mortuus Umbra, Mannveira, Dysangelium and Almyrkvi has been well spent, exposing him to the nuances of the best of contemporary black metal, as well as the curse of choice found within the profuse subtleties of music production. Indeed, the latter more than likely hampered the journey taken by 'Tabernaculum' from start to finish, but it was one circuitous route well worth the effort.

'Tabernaculum' is an overwhelming listen, impossible to truly absorb after first exposure. A lot of its majesty gives thanks to its deft use of atmosphere. Many black metal bands merely toy with the creation of dread or malice, inserting languid ambient passages before, between and after tracks that often equate to nothing but skipped filler. Through delicate layering across a broad frequency spectrum, balanced against some seemingly out of place and even upbeat guitar work, most of which could be considered very unusual for black metal, the record retains a portentous tactility throughout. Here lays the crushed global spirit...

Though first and foremost a black metal record, in the most rigid sense, it is the album's more unorthodox elements that truly differentiate it from anything else heard to date. There exists a sinewy warmth as melodies just about merge, as a riff far too blithe for its own good is suddenly accosted by an unexpected aggression and malevolence, akin to a fresh oil slick embracing an all too perfect sandy shore as an ochre sun rises - a devastating allure, realised.

Indeed, this spirit runs through 'Tabernaculum', its lyrics, its fantastically adroit accompanying artwork - a heaving, exasperated earth shuffling on under the weight of an ineffectual, fetid human kind, a comfortable acknowledgement of the end, wherein lies a beautifully redemptive quality. Very few, if any, black metal albums are as strikingly evocative.

Mention of the use of traditional instrumentation in black metal may perturb many, as thoughts of bodhrans and fiddles stumbling over bouncy riffing are truly the province of nightmares, yet 'Tabernaculum' employs the cello, mandolin and the sharp-sounding bouzouki, which backs up the majority of lead lines across the record to magnificent effect, credit again to that lavish yet astute layering.

As with many great releases, this, too, is best digested as one course, though each track is in itself a compositional masterwork, epic in scope, while also fervently and mercilessly introspective. Piece after piece reaches its crescendo with seeming ease, despite the tension that builds and builds, in a style that reminds of the always excellent Clint Mansell.

Buttressed by compelling, apt artwork and layout (Alexander L. Brown, Alex Karpouski, Joe Deegan, Gunnhildur Edda Guðmundsdóttir, Manuel Tinnemans), heavily metaphysical lyrical content and garnering the support of the imperious, French label Norma Evangelium Diaboli, as a black metal package, 'Tabernaculum' is quite perfect. It confidently presents itself as a crowning achievement, not only for Lockhart, but also for Studio Emissary and the future of Irish/Icelandic black metal collaborations. An unnervingly inspired work and thoroughly matchless on every level.