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A fantasy world of medieval dark ambient BM awaits - 78%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, February 13th, 2018

What stands out on this release, the second by British atmospheric BM band Sunsunmoon, and makes that act's style quite distinctive is the deliberately archaic atmosphere - quite appropriate for an act interested in pagan and mediaeval occult themes! This ambience which pervades most of this album's songs is built up by layers of guitars and synths: the sharp tones of the guitars used, whether pure and arch or grinding and edgy, contrast with the more tranquil background scenery of resigned and impassive choral chant, heavy rolling mists, cavernous castle keeps left abandoned and melodies that sound like reproductions of lutes, pipes and harpsichords of yesteryear. The layers of sound and atmosphere make for a rich auditory experience that can evoke different associations, connections and pictures in listeners' minds. The vocals are just as varied, ranging from spoken voice and Gregorian-style chant to more typical harsh throaty growling.

You might expect that an album like this, with the concept it has, would have songs that sound similar to the extent that they'd be no more than variations on the one set of themes and music elements. Let me warn, you'll be pleasantly surprised: each track is a fantasy world unto itself with only the most vague or basic connections to other tracks. Initially the title track comes over somewhat in the vein of Burzum's "Filosofem" album in mood, pace and texture, at least until the last few minutes when a deranged mediaeval acoustic guitar presides over a tapestry of ghost voice chanting and bursts of crazed synth. "Exiled in Aries" is as depressed and depressive as DSBM can be: at the end of the track, you might actually believe SSM main-man Richard has gone off and done himself in. "Within the Grave" begins as a stern, martial-sounding piece in which drums sound near-tribal and the guitars have a horn-like quality. The later part of the track includes more standard BM passages with a definite groove, harsh vocals, the occasional plaintive cold synth melody and a slow dark ambient section - this is definitely a song that defies expectations!

"Dark Rural Magick" may not please everyone: some listeners will find it too slow in how it builds up compared to other tracks, others will appreciate the powerful solo guitar shrieking in the background while the music plods on. This is definitely intended as an atmospheric mood piece. The outro track is very pained and doesn't quite reach the standard of earlier tracks in variety and creative originality.

While there may be too much emphasis on synth-generated sounds, resulting in a limited range of all-too-familiar tones, and the drumming in parts needs to be stronger than it is, this is a very commendable recording. There is plenty of atmosphere suggestive of rolling clouds of mist that might disguise a wormhole to another part of the universe in another time, whether back to the past or into the future. A military band of musicians on horn and drum urging on battles being fought with pikes might be present in ghost form. The album's first half may be more impressive than the second half but the whole album deserves a hearing.

After the album drifts away, the sudden return to the present is such an unpleasant jolt, you just may be tempted to run back into the embrace of those demons of mediaeval times ...