Spectral Lore [Greece]
Stellar Auditorium Productions
The metal genre has become so saturated that bands nowadays attempt to differentiate themselves from others with the attachment of a running theme into their music, often resulting in hilarious and at times ridiculous tags, such as pirate metal. Other bands take a more subtle route, such as Spectral Lore, who has dubbed their music “transcendental black metal”. Transcendental black metal has left quite a bad impression on me with bands like Liturgy single-handedly destroying whatever image people have of the genre, not only with their music but also with the ridiculous (and pretentious) ideologies that the band claim to propagate with their music. The usage of such a tag has also left me wondering what “transcendental black metal” really sounded like compared to more traditional black metal.
With Sentinel, Spectral Lore‘s third full length album though, the band proves itself to really be quite a traditional black metal band, though with an extremely heavy emphasis on the atmospheric aspects in the music. The coldness and bleakness in the music is clear right from the start with All Devouring Earth, not only through the riffs that band mastermind Ayloss unleashes, but also with the various ambient effects that are utilised throughout the album, as the listener is constantly soaked in a dense atmosphere from the start all the way till the end. The huge-sounding percussions in the music, the entire atmospheric experience somewhat brings to mind bands such as Summoning, though the black metal aesthetics are more apparent in Spectral Lore‘s art especially on tracks like The Dejection of Arjuna. Ayloss also proves his songwriting mastery with the song progressions as well, with the riffs and transitions in the songs effectively telling the stories that are present on Sentinel, constantly transiting between more calming and soothing moments and frantic, chaotic ones with the furious, trem-picked guitar playing especially on The Dejection of Arjuna which sees the band changing style with every change in mood. The track even sees Ayloss including effects that sound like horns used on the battlefield to further suit the theme and mood of the track.
For the most part, Sentinel is a heavily-instrumental album, with most of the album being instrumental segments, and vocals, where present, also often function as an additional instrument serving to enhance the atmosphere apart from a means of lyrical delivery. The emphasis on the ambient is perhaps most clearly shown on the closing track, Atlus (A World Within a World), a 30-minute instrumental track that is mostly devoid of instrumentation, with only the sounds of the recurring ambience towards the end of All Devouring Earth present on the track, sounding almost like a soundtrack fore meditation for the listener. Furthermore, the track constantly alternates between unease and calmness.
The transcendental aspect of the band is probably displayed in the lyrical side of the band, with lyrics that range from the rather abstract themes of nature to the story of Arjuna’s dilemma on the battlefield of the Vedic epic Bhagavad Gita on The Dejection of Arjuna. The only band that I have encountered tackling such themes is the mighty Rudra, and seeing another band providing their take on the story was certainly a draw for me, making the experience of Sentinel all the more enchanting.
Sentinel, with all its ambient elements that have been fused into Spectral Lore‘s brand of black metal, has resulted in a rather overwhelming experience that those unaccustomed to would find hard to listen in a single sitting. However, as one slowly absorbs and begins to understand the album, the quality of the album becomes clear, with brilliant songwriting and song arrangements by band mastermind Ayloss making the journey a rather impactful and memorable one.