Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Aeternus - ...And So The Night Became


There are classic albums and then there are masterpieces. Albums which grow grand with age and more glorious and supreme even against an ever increasing catalog of excellent choices. Somewhere out there amongst all the music I've ever listened to in the past eighteen years an incredibly small number of albums have become mainstays in my listening, beacons of perfection to the dross and mediocrity, examples of pristine inspiration and execution. For almost all bands, after years and years of striving, they never create anything resembling even an average-quality album. Some bands, with the right combination of artistry might assemble a work which surpasses most, becomes an inspiration... an example of the fineness of a genre, something more than average. And then out of the depths of obscurity arises a crafted heirloom more than the musicians involved and the context surrounding it. Within black metal a lot of albums claim these titles and more... many of which are classics less for their music and more for that context. I can't speak for them but one black metal album has outlived, surpassed and decimated all others in all areas.

Re-release Cover.
Where Beyond The Wandering Moon literally wandered around for parts of the album,  finding the trail and hidden grottoes deep amidst the dark flora across several excellent tracks such as Vind, Sentinels of Darkness and Sworn Revenge, ...And So The Night Became became a connected soul within that cimmerian world. With lunar guidance and celestial fates beaming down, Ares, Morrigan and Vrolok ceased to be individual members of a band, blending and morphing into a single mindset and lone essence. If the overtones here are of the essential elements which Black Metal requires, and those odors are plentiful, robust and pure, it's the more subtle fragrances which emanate. They've drawn me in since the beginning with this album. Fundamentally for me, there is this overwhelming sense of grandeur and royalty here. Aeternus, through music have created the architecture of regality. It is evidenced in tracks like "Warrior of the Crescent Moon" and "Ild Dans." In the fearlessness of "As I March" and "Blodsverging."

There are parts of the songs present here, which simply defy simple round-about descriptions. The five minute intro of "There's No Wine Like The Blood's Crimson," is a marvel. It builds into this epic exploratory emotion within, and when the main riff to the track kicks in, you can begin to create a world around you. It's the tentativeness of riding up to the dark gates of Satan's castle. It's the hesitation of being in an unwelcoming environment without any chance of return. You are thrown headlong into a Gothic nightmare, the kind Bram Stoker wrote about in the final pages of Lair of the White Worm. You can imagine somehow being surrounded by ancient walls and blood-soaked parapets, drenched in the rain of an endless storm. The echo of downpours - the ceaseless double bass - and the crash of thunder - massive fills on the toms. You've opened the door, expecting some respite from the madness and yet, you step through the threshold into "As I March." The field is coated in dew. The enemy is in sight and you are rushing them with spears and swords leveled at their faces. There is an uncanny slowness to the whole thing, a respect on the parts of all involved in the skirmish. You are not there for any Lord or King. It is the battle you crave. You call your liege the ground you were born from, you claim your allegiance to the blood you endeavor to spill.

Aeternus craft imagery with ease. The lyrics encapsulate the primitive and the refined elements of both opposites, dredging the soul to rediscover emotions long since forgotten by mankind - a more simple way of thought and yet, a more complex way of understanding the world. They proclaim only the desire to return to the mud and the grave, to be once again one with Her; blood to the rivers and flesh to the mountains. The arrangement and exquisite acoustic playing on tracks like Warrior Of The Crescent Moon, When The Crow's Shadows Fall and closer Fyrndeheimen hearkens to the early Empyrium albums but where Empyrium reveled in bringing the Pastoral to the forefront, Aeternus here drag forward a yearning for that aforementioned simpler life and yet the hopelessness that we can never return to such glorious times. We live in a world of ephemeral respect and momentary delights and we have ourselves to blame. The album shows us what could have been, where society could have gone. Less cryptically, the album shows us where Black Metal can go. It can retain all the aggression, all the hate and passion and yet be sentimental and reach into us and grab the emotions we all feel.

And yet, where Aeternus have excelled on this album truly is in the scale of the songs. There are no black or white tracks here. No one track serves it's own purpose. "As I March" opens into the reverence of "Warrior of the Crescent Moon," with it's softly mixed synths careening across layers of exquisite melody and rumbling verses. The vocals are pained and frantic. And though in many places the tracks are linear, with little repetition of parts, this creates the feeling falling forward forever through the mountains and glens and into dark caves and torch-lit cairns populated by robed priests with sheepskin cloaks and intricately carved horned helms drawing the star's light into them and glowing with ages of ritual use. "...And So The Night Became," then romps through the mid-paced "Blodsverging," the album's weakest track if it could be considered so. It still highlights vocals and melody which are such strengths of this album.

"When The Crow's Shadows Fall" begins with ancient melodies and a bittersweet lead before taking flight into one of the album's fastest and most intense tracks. It's song the grandness of death, the honor once afforded fallen warriors, the finality of courage. I've listened to this album many times and still get chills when I sit on the floor, with the lyrics in front of me and absorb every drum beat and every wail. It is the best way to appreciate this one - head down, mind open and pores soaking in each snap of the snare and every swirling keyboard passage. This is especially true on the final two tracks of the album. "Ild Dans" is to this album what "Sunwheel" may be considered to Drudkh's Autum Aurora or "Heathen Tribes" on To The Nameless Dead - and I sense a slight melodic similarity in that regard early in the song. It's an uptempo dance, a bright dawn, a sweet scent during hard times, dark nights or sweeping across a rotting battlefield. So much of the album is a dichotomy such as this, harshness paired with melody and aggressiveness paired with something gentle.

One of the most spine tingling moment is the end of Ild Dans where gates open, doors unlock and keys are turned to present an epic vista of Valhalla before the ears. Clean vocals, mixed with harsh vocals over acoustic guitars mixed with the heavier distorted tone. It's the wonder of ...And So The Night Became that these moments appear and fall much like the life of a hero, often ended too short and before respect can be shown to their actions. You must relive these moments again and again to feel satisfied and even then, you need to return to them soon afterwards to feel them again. And much like this short section the title track is a marvel. It takes everything proposed musically and puts it in context into a single soundtrack. The song is a true album climax. Two minutes in you are walking up to meet your greatest foe and the battle has commenced. You fight for your king and fellow countrymen. Aeternus have wrapped their wings around you, like a black angel, and are lifting you into the sky as you relive your life in the form of a medley of images. You are dying in service to your honor and as you are laid to rest in the Longship and the waves crash around you, you watch yourself burn.

And as ashes we return. ...And So The Night Became is a grand story. We are born, we fight, we triumph and we fail. "With horned wings and cold minds, The dwelling and feeding, it is complete. Now we rise."

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