Hailing from the perpetually sunny, oftentimes snowy state of Colorado comes with its fair share of outdoor rituals. One of these, found deep in the throes of deepest winter, manifests itself as shoveling stupid amounts of snow off of my driveway. Waking at 6:00am to clear a path for my wife and I to exit our abode before working hours is, I must admit, not my favorite of winter rituals (most of the others involve warm, sugar-filled drinks spiked with alcohol, so there’s that). But I’ve found solace in the mundanity of this essential task through the music of one-man post-black wrecking crew Unreqvited. Each morning following a fresh dump of powder, I encase myself in snow gear, don my headphones, and trudge into the frost-bitten wasteland with music blasting into my head to fit the part. Thus making, on an experiential level, Unreqvited one of my most treasured metal acts.
Biases aside, it’s difficult to look at Unreqvited’s discography and not be impressed. Since Disquiet’s release back in 2016, the project has evolved in both the scope of its songwriting and the instrumentation utilized to manifest these ideas, and has by some miracle yet to gravitate toward sounding like anything other than itself. Which is infinitely impressive given the crowded and often talent-stacked sonic star field in which the project exists. Bands like Deafheaven, Alcest, Bosse de Nage, Violet Cold, Sylvaine, Numenorean, and Ghost Bath all tread similar atmospheric/post-black waters, so for Unreqvited’s music to continue to create such an indelible mark on the subgenre is indeed remarkable in and of itself. The band’s fourth record and follow up to 2018’s expansive, gorgeous Mosaic I: L’amour Et L’ardeur is a further testament to this one-man project’s impressive growth, and may well be its most cinemascopic and beautiful outing yet. For those hoping for another banger from Unreqvited, Mosaic II: la déteste et la détresse delivers the goods.
Those familiar with Unreqvited will most certainly be recognize the sounds entering their ear holes during opener “Nightfall”. Channeling an almost White Wardian vibe through its opening minute of sparse, rich guitar melody with recordings of voices softly layered underneath, the track builds a melancholic atmosphere that fans of the band’s previous work know and love. As the track develops, it expands its understated walk into a blizzarding beast of blast beats and otherworldly screams, transforming itself from a mid-paced and mournful dirge into an absolute cacophony that somehow never loses its sense of melody. Unreqvited’s songwriting has never felt more simultaneously open and controlled, letting this music develop and grow over seven minutes without ever losing its keen sense of direction. As an emblematic piece of music, it sets listeners up for the rest of the album impeccably well.
“Wasteland”, with its blistering guitars and epic synths, picks up right where its predecessor left off, but ratchets up the black metal intensity even further, drowning us in jagged tremolo and synthetic elements that feel pulled directly from an 80s fantasy movie. It’s an absolutely stunning combo, balancing unrelenting aggression with a distinct sense of melody that never feels overly cheesy or ill-fitting. But Mosaic II, for all its black metal bluster, shines most distinctly in its non-metallic moments. The keys, acoustic guitar, and lilting, delicate drum work could have been pulled directly from one of Beach House’s gentler tracks. It’s a shift in pace that, after the raging storm of its preceding tracks, is both welcome and aptly placed. All of these elements combine most fruitfully, however, in the three part epic “Transience”, which is in turn dark, menacing, glorious, ambient, intricate, electronically-influenced, and expansive. It may be the best and most adventurous sequence of music Unreqvited has yet written, and serves to showcase the majestic heights the band is capable of reaching.
As a full listening experience, I have little in the way of criticism for what Unreqvited accomplishes in Mosaic II: la déteste et la détresse. As a follow-up to its spiritual predecessor, it expands upon its best ideas without ever feeling like a retread. Through the prism of the project’s discography as a whole, it’s a welcome and epic addition to an already incredibly solid collection. For those who love their post-black metal drenched in atmosphere, aggression, and sonic adventurousness, you may have found yourself an album of the year contender. And it’s only January. Praise be.
Mosaic II: la déteste et la détresse drops January 10th via Prophecy Records, and is available for pre-order on the band’s Bandcamp page.