Editor’s Note: it is our extreme pleasure today to be premiering this album alongside reviewing it. If you’d like to listen along as you read this review, please scroll all the way to the bottom first to find the embed for this release. If you’re a fan of atmospheric black metal to any extent, this album is one for you. Enjoy!
Atmospheric black metal is, in many ways, an inherent contradiction. While the ambient and the dark were certainly not absent from the halcyon days of black metal wherein the genre was birthed, they were much more muted and disparate. That is, they played the role of contrast, of pauses from the brutal barrage of screeches, riffs and ugly production that the genre would grow infamous for. But in order to bake the atmosphere into the black metal and create the sub-genre, you need something that seems almost like anathema to the ore from which it is excavated. You need control, restraint and careful planning. It’s easy to see why the merging of such control would be both elusive and desirable in black metal; after all, especially in music, we tend to assign value to that which is hard to obtain.
On Unraveling; Arising, With the End in Mind makes this otherwise rare combination seem easy. While not necessarily containing anything that will blast this genre wide open as far as innovation goes, Unraveling; Arising is simply executed to a degree in which that doesn’t matter. Originally released in 2016, Unraveling; Arising is an exercise in control and release and the power which comes over pain when it is assigned an enclosed space and channeled through a bottleneck. Its re-release this year, through the Swedish underground label, Temple of Torturous, is a good opportunity to become acquainted (or re-acquainted) with its daft strokes of black metal aggression tinged with contemplative ambiance, morose guitar and painfully raw vocals.
Things start off clearly enough with “Sings the Sky”. A long build-up leads to dreamy guitars which make up the meat of the track. Shortly thereafter, the instruments are joined by multilayered vocals, their delivery (alongside some of the more delayed guitar touches) reminding one of Anathema, somewhere in their middle years. When these vocals taper off, blastbeats are introduced into the fray and the first of many fast-paced riffs cuts through the air. When the vocals return, they are characteristically black metal, powerful screeches filling up the airy tops of the track with defiance and pain. These lines and style will carry us more or less all the way to the end of the second track, “Anguish Symmetry”. Make sure to listen, however, for the achingly beautiful break in the middle of that track, before the black metal explodes once again.
But it’s at the center of the album, with a self-titled track, that the album contracts and condenses to its nadir. “Unraveling; Arising” is an almost completely ambient track, graced near the end by acoustic guitars that echo Spectral Lore. The track in general gives off that vibe, channeling introspection, mysticism and night into an overwhelmingly wonderful pivot for the album. So too the guitars that transition into “From the True Source”, channeling the kind of folk influences that made Spectral Lore’s Gnosis work (an incredibly underrated release, by the by). From there, the track picks up on these soft intonations and builds them back up, setting the ground for when the heavier segments return near its middle, transformed by the silence and calm that has come to pass.
And therein lies the secret and craft of With the End in Mind; like any great atmospheric black metal band, the art lies in the ways in which the contrast between the quiet and the noise makes the latter more impressive to behold. The darker passages of Unraveling; Arising give it nuance, meaning and context, framing the sometimes hard to relate to the abrasiveness of black metal. It makes those harsher moments all the more impactful, our ears drawn to consider the differences between the two approaches and, indeed, the similarities. All of this cannot be achieved without maturity and control, a fine tuning of album structure, tone and composition that enables the meshing between its two parts. On Unraveling; Arising, With the End in Mind prove that they have those sensibilities and in droves.
With the End in Mind releases tomorrow. Check out the full stream below and don’t forget to pre-order it.