Monday 30 March 2015

Lamentations of the Ashen - ‘Libertine Cyst’ (Album Review)

Album Type: Full-length
Date Released: 5/3/2015
Label: Sylvan Screams Analog/Fragile Branch Recordings

‘Libertine Cyst’ CS//DD track listing:

1. A Profane Illvmination (Convvlsionaries Of Temporal Heterodoxy)            
2. II         
3. Hiraeth (Torpor Of The Persiflage)
4. Dissentient Cyclic Echelons (Manifesting The Ascent And Effacement Of The Abyss)

Band is:

Bon Vincent Fry | Everything


Let’s get straight to the point: Lamentations of the Ashen’s ‘Libertine Cyst’ is a massive undertaking, both by artist Bon Vincent Fry and for the listener. There is a lot to unpack in each of the four songs over the course of the album’s sixty-three minutes. It’s not going to grab you immediately with melodic hooks or sharp arrangements. It’s just not that kind of album. It’s more demanding of your attention and your time. So obvious question becomes: is this album worth it? The answer is unquestionably, a yes.

Each of the album’s four songs offers a wide array of emotions and musical themes. You’ll find anything from desperate sorrow to cautious hope, not to mention whatever the fuck it is I feel when those yawning, cavernous bends in the early minutes of “II” ooze from my speakers. What it really comes down to is that the level of craftsmanship, attention to song writing detail, and sheer effort on display throughout ‘Libertine Cyst’ is on par with the best in one-man metal. While they’re very different beasts, dealing in very different emotional spaces; Lamentations of the Ashen is every bit the artistic powerhouse that projects like Panopticon or—going further back—Leviathan are.

One of the most unique things about ‘Libertine Cyst’ is its ability to stay in softer dynamic ranges for long stretches of time without losing any emotional intensity or being any less engrossing. Again, using “II” as an example, there is a four minute segment, beginning just over the ten minute mark that is among the best material on the album. There isn’t any drum beat carrying the rhythmic load nor and deep, low-end chords to hit you in the gut. And yet the solitary, bleak guitar that takes center stage for the equivalent of your average radio rock song is every bit as enthralling as the most vicious or heavy moments elsewhere. When the drums finally do return, they’re thunderous war drums in service of building tension alongside a distant, nerve-racking guitar lead. When it all finally explodes in a blasting fervor, the whole experience has left the listener drained but supremely satisfied. I realize how ludicrously sexual that reads, but there are real similarities in the way the song builds from the ten minute mark until its climax. Longform, dramatic musical builds are so seldom done well in metal that when one is performed with this kind of mastery, it warrants a sexual analogy.

I’ve singled out one song in particular because each song is a miniature musical epic all its own, even if it belongs to a greater whole. Each song deals with unique musical characteristics and emotions. Normally, I’d be one to scoff at a label like “Tragic Black Metal”, but instead I can’t help but nod along. This is black metal that requires both patience and investment, but the rewards are more than worth it. I’ve been a huge proponent of albums topping out at 45 minutes as a general rule, but ‘Libertine Cyst’ is the exception that proves the rule. If you aren’t willing to explore musical grief or malevolence or hope with this kind of depth, you’d be better served keeping things at a more reasonable length. For Bon Vincent Fry, and a select few others, it’s best to give them the time they need.

Words by: Daniel Jackson

You can pick up a digital copy here and a cassette copy here (UK/EU) or here (US).

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