|Artwork by Zdzisław Beksiński|
I'll try and make this relatively short so you can just get right to downloading Labyrinthine's Ancient Obscurity. It's pay-what-you-want so you have no excuse. Just do it and thank us later.
Labyrinthine is the work of one man as is often the case for black metal of this ilk. That man is known as J.L. (aka James Lipczynski). And for this second LP under the Labyrinthine banner he has crafted an incredibly deep collection of songs that has entranced me to such a degree that I was reluctant to even begin to verbalize it.
J.L.'s vocals are cold and menacing. They're other-worldly, like the voice of our reptilian master's dying breaths cursing their demise. Irascibly delivered lyrics of “fantasy, imagination and astral projection” related topics cannot always be understood, but if they have been brought into existence with the same care as the music then it's worth the effort to figure them out.
Where the album really makes its mark is in the melodies. Even though J.L. acts alone he plays with a three-headed beast (at least). Multiple guitars are guided on circuitous paths, winding back and forth, up and down with grace and a decidedly human element. Bass as well winds its way through the expansive layers, providing warmth against the bleak six-stringed counterparts.
The listener finds solace in those sinuous melodies turning back on themselves. The hypnotic repetition so common in modern black metal shifts with the tides to avoid redundancy. And the production makes things pop so it's more than static-laden noise looped incessantly.
But it's those guitars that really ensnare the listener with their torturous sorrow and undying beauty. They're like colours shimmering on a spiderweb being gently buffeted by a cool breeze at dusk. The programmed percussion acts as earthly anchors lest the steely, interconnected melodies be swept into the ether and carried to a dimension far more deserving.
Ancient Obscurity is haunted by a spectral presence. It's bleak and stoic yet emotional and encapsulating, existing in multiple places at once. It feels like basement black metal without sounding like it. Sonically consistent front to back and with countless melodies resurfacing in the mind, Ancient Obscurity quietly, deceptively and effortlessly forces its way into the black metal album of the year conversation. I for one haven't found a way to break its spell.
That wasn't very short, was it? It's easy to get lost.
[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]