Saturday, May 15, 2010

Ancient Wisdom - And the Physical Shape of Light Bled

Ancient Wisdom - And the Physical Shape of Light Bled
2000, Avantgarde Records

This is the third release for this band, although it is the first I have listened to with any measurable amount of attention. Why? I believe this band has finally hit upon a defineable style - one that suits them, and also one that clearly doesn't limit them to any specific genre - something that suits me when it comes to listening to new music. Mixing various elements of ambient, black metal, doom metal (really only in the sense that they play very slowly in the attempt to build atmosphere) and death, this work is a giant step forward in the progression of their own musical aesthetics, and probably is very fulfilling to the band in that it seems to finally realize, in concrete form, some of the themes they had been exploring before. The impression I get is that they spent a great deal of time on this material arranging it for the widest range of expression (in the terms, again, of translating their emotions into musical atmosphere), relentlessly re-writing simple themes and passages until their later combination was brought together for the maximum amount of 'epic' evocation.

The bio I received with this does mention, however, that this album was originally conceived as a mcd, something that will not surprise you if you take it for a few spins and pay close attention to the paucity of musical themes on display here after the first few songs have flown by. The intro (Preludium) and first song (the title track) are obviously the most important tracks on this release, and thus placed first. If this release only included those two, or maybe added the third cut ('With His Triumph Came Fire') then it would be an above-average EP for a rapid consumption by the black metal audiences - it would go down very well, in short. But after the third song things start to deteriorate rapidly, and it is not long before the elements that make up Ancient Wisdom's sound (the synth washes, a solo piano, the oft-disappearing rhythm guitars, and rasping vocals) begin to combine in ways that are directly derivative of the first two songs. That either means that this band found themselves in a strange position having to expand this release from a mcd, and simply repeated themselves on the latter half of this album, or they went back to material they had put behind them some time ago and were able to draw out of that music the themes for the first two songs - drawing the essence out of them for a more perfect realization of what they were trying to accomplish before. That's how I see it, anyway.

The second song, the title track, is a very well constructed piece that meanders through several different related themes, linked in an impressive fashion by very tasteful and eloquent solo work (supposedly by a member of Bewitched), and it is that solo melody that will probably take up residence in your memory, after a few listens, while all else has faded away. Here the Ancient Wisdom elements come into full effect: evocative keyboards, slow pounding drums, melancholy solo work, and slow growling or black metal shouting. I think this would be an excellent album to listen to in certain situations or environments - a rainy gray day, for example, or for an hour in the middle of the night. This record seems to lose power if played during the day. The bio claims that Ancient Wisdom is 'still the slowest and most depressive black metal band on Earth' - so right there you probably know whether this will find acceptance in your stereo. Truth be known, that is actually not a bad description, as this wouldn't be too far off from most 'epic' black metal releases if it came down only to the musical themes on display. This is very dark, and also very eloquent when it comes to creating musical passages that illustrate the lyrics...going by the song titles and the vocals that I can decipher, this album seems to be completely dedicated either to the mythic history of Lucifer or the characteristics of the Dark Lord himself. An interesting concept, but I just wish it had been condensed down to three or four songs...I would recommend this to people who are mainly into black metal for the atmospheric effect that music usually gives off.