Monday, January 22, 2018

Signatura Rerum - The Legend I

It's apparent from the first moments of The Legend I, that Signatura Rerum are not content with idly strumming strings and blasting along. The Legend I, which started it's crafting prior to their excellent 2013 debut, In Sfarsit, has all the captivating elements which makes Romanian Black Metal so rewarding to explore. The right amount of local flavor is present to be determinedly from a somewhat localized scene but there is also a complexity to much of what is pumped through Signatura's veins on this album revealing more wide-reaching influences. Think Negura Bunget and Emperor sitting next to the fireplace together looking at family photos. More modern hues like Opeth and Agalloch come through occasionally. Much like the prior record there is a sense of maturity on display that tingles and tugs on the tripwires which warn of potential and sets off alarms in the nerve-center. It's not often that a band can stand out among the other similar bands of it's genre but Signatura Rerum are coming close. To achieve this lofty perch requires some form of neurological connection to the material and the feelings it creates. Signatura Rerum craft music that is easy to tap into on a deeper level.

The Legend I is the first in a trilogy of albums revolving around a mythological universe created by the band. This is not unheard of in the black metal realm and it is often not done well. Signatura Rerum offer their universe on a kebab, skewering the characters through the heart instead of allowing the guest to taste and decide. It's my least favorite aspect of the record, especially because the lyrical matter reads a lot like Game of Thrones spoilers. I'd like to see Signature Rerum focus less on the settings and more the themes which these narrative threads contain, as they will be continued on the remaining albums in the trilogy. In this way, the courses are offered on platters to be admired and savored. "Rise and Fall" focuses on the topic of revenge, "Legion and Order" seemingly explores a romanticized death among imagery of winter, and "Sand and Wine" intimates a loss of family, pride, and name. Up front, the band plays with the juxtaposition in each of the titles, but the lyrical content needs a little extra love to shine fully.

Musically, the patient attention to building tension and mood was a major highlight for me. Once again, Negura Bunget's influence is notable in the inclusion of folk melodies and instrumentation details such as flutes in "Rise and Fall Pt. 2" or xylophone percussive notes in "Sand and Wine Pt. 1". The truth behind Signatura Rerum's evocative music is the soundtrack-quality narrative feel of the symphonic elements nodding to Emperor, Borknagar, or Dissection. Whether it's the keyboards leaving their mark on the overall symphonic quality, or details like the xylophones, throughout the record Signatura Rerum use a swath of tools to add variety and story to the music. The two tracks from the "Sand and Wine" chapter have a definite different rhythmic style all their own, at times progressive, jazzy, and technical, which adds a lot of character and defines them as unique among the album. This ability to give the three separate segments distinctive flair is incredibly impressive.

Signatura Rerum have a lot to be proud of with this record, both from the complexity attempted and outcome achieved. There is enough uniqueness to separate Legend I from a lot of other music out there and for this alone the endeavor would be worthy of some admiration; being successful in this aim is worthy of commendation beyond. It's not a record to play in the background, giving much more with attention and adoration offered; this nature is easily dispiriting to once-and-done listens. I imagine a soundtrack before me to something vast and grand so hopefully on the future expansions to this, we get a story and characters that are every bit as vast and touching.

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