Review – Spectral Lore: III

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Review – Spectral Lore: III
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Spectral Lore: III
Ambience, Black Metal
I, Voidhanger Records
May 2nd, 2014
Release length:
Bandcamp
Spectral Lore is yet another one-man entry into the Black Metal underground. It’s the brainchild of Divine Element guitarist Ayloss (or Chris as some sites have outed his real first name to be), and was formed in 2005. With the exception of 2012’s Sentinel, the Athens, Greece-based act has taken to numbering the albums since it’s debut outing I back in 2006. With three full-lengths and three splits to its name, Spectral Lore returns in 2014 with the long overdue III, which is being distributed by I, Voidhanger Records. Does this storied new entry blend the Ambient and Black Metal landscapes together well, or is it just a typical lo-fi solo project mess?

For those that don’t follow Spectral Lore, III has a little bit of history to it that explains why the fourth full-length seems to disavow Sentinel from the numeral sequencing. This is because recording for the album started in 2008, and about half of it was done that year. The rest remained unfinished due to unspecified production and mixing problems. It actually wasn’t finished until 2012 when Ayloss was able to complete all that himself. In short, em>Sentinel itself doesn’t actually fit into the general concept of the numbered albums, and is considered more a recording for Ayloss to let out some frustration while picking up the skills needed to give III the proper release it deserves, which he has definitely has done despite some minor issues.

III isn’t another low-quality analog album, but for as crisp as it is, it still manages to assert some raw elements to carry an upgraded cassette quality at times. This lies largely in the heavily distorted guitars and sharp, slightly thin sound of certain parts of the drum kit. It’s also a conceptual release that is split into two discs. Up first is the fifty minute long “Singularity” epic, which starts off with “Omphalos.” This one shows off the audio quality well with chaotic blast beats and furious chords. The bass sticks out quite well, and many of the leads only add to the overall chaotic nature of the performance. The use of gutturals against the musical madness only amplifies the impact, almost capturing a truly apocalyptic landscape in aural format, especially around four minutes in as those Ambient effects introduce some white noise that sounds like wind passing through the deserted plains before shifting into a mid-pace performance full of catchy, yet ultimately depressing hook with layered deep wailing vocals and some spoken word against chords that scream Vintersorg progression.

“The Veiled Garden” ends up sticking to that mid-tempo pace with depressing chords against bass kicks that can be a little faster overall. The growls take on a whispered tone when the pace really slows and becomes a bit empty, though the trudging Doom Metal section about seven minutes in gives the instruments a far more blunt edge that hammers away at the listener with a Moonsorrow-heavy sound that can be felt throughout the release. “The Cold March Towards Eternal Brightness” is another blistering track with somewhat emotional leads at times, as well as some passages that have a stronger groove that makes it impossible not to bang your head along to. Later on presents some glorious viking-esque or Pagan Metal environments that only continue to grow more powerful, especially after the brief keyboard passage towards the end that adds the instrument in later for greater impact before the beautiful acoustic track “Drifting Through Moss and Ancient Stone” wraps things up nicely.

The second disc is entitled “Eternity,” and it’s a pretty different experience overall. The drums sound a little louder overall, though much of it sounds about the same as the bass kicks, and the vocals are stronger in the mix as well. The overall quality is a lot more crisp and digital compared to the first disc, and while it sounds good, it doesn’t quite have the same bite, as well as interrupts the flow between the two a bit. But while the audio may be different, the performances carry similar foundations and atmospheres. “The Spiral Fountain,” however, shows a stronger nature theme that runs throughout the disc, starting immediately in the cleaner guitar introduction that kicks off the cold Folk influences. Despite that chill in the air, there’s plenty of relaxing passages that give the performance a very zen-like quality for the first six minutes. After that it returns to that familiar glorious epic once more.

“A Rider Through the Lands of an Infinite Dreamscape” picks up where the chilly wind swept conclusion of “The Spiral Fountain”left off, but is met with great hostility and pride in the leads. This is also where the act’s more Progressive tendencies start to show. About half way through you are greeted with that crushing Doom Metal pace once more, but as if in an empty cave based given how the previous track closes and sets this song up. Inside you are met with oddly upbeat rhythms behind subtle Heavy Metal riffs, and lighter chords that seem as though a whimsical performance to accompany you as you warm up by a fire within the space you find yourself in before giving in to the faster, mournful Black Metal that follows. Meanwhile “Cosmic Significance” uses keyboards that sound like the immensely relaxing score to a night time scene in an early The Legend of Zelda title, but it’s transitioned into that superbly executed Moonsorrow grade Black Metal once more, ending the same way this one began.

When you take into consideration the problems Ayloss had when trying to get III together, it’s surprising that it came out as great as it did, let alone that it will see the light of day to begin with. Spectral Lore has consistently upped the quality of their material release after release, and this one definitely shows the amount of growth, patience, even love and care that went into crafting both discs of this nearly ninety minute experience. With very few issues to be noted outside the obvious clashing audio qualities, III blends in plenty of Progressive and Folk/Viking atmospheres and themes, not to mention Ambience, Depressive touches, varied catchy melodies, and some crushingly dismal Doom Metal passages, making it not only one of the best albums from Spectral Lore, but an opus that you simply need to experience..

Disc One: Singularity
01. Omphalos – 7:28
02. The Veiled Garden – 16:32
03. The Cold March Towards Eternal Brightness – 14:42
04. Drifting Through Moss and Ancient Stone – 11:26

Disc Two: Eternity
05. The Spiral Fountain – 10:47
06. A Rider Through the Lands of an Infinite Dreamscape – 12:46
07. Cosmic Significance – 13:52

Initial Pressing Score: 9/10

Spectral Lore

Digital review copy of this release provided by I, Voidhanger Records.