Elysian Blaze - _Cold Walls and Apparitions_
(Northern Silence Productions, 2005)
by: Pedro Azevedo (8.5 out of 10)
In a world where even supposedly underground metal bands so often seem to chase the hottest trends, I always find it rewarding to come across a band who is clearly committed to creating something meaningful instead. Elysian Blaze, from Australia, play a mixture of doom and black metal with plenty of atmospheric elements thrown in. Not only is the suicidal black metal subgenre a rather small niche, Elysian Blaze stubbornly refuse to compromise their musical vision, thus further reducing their target audience. I don't just mean the music is buried in an uninviting sound mix, as is often the case with this subgenre; there have certainly been much harsher mixes, and the sound quality does not detract from the music itself. Elysian Blaze are able to communicate this artistic integrity simply by virtue of their songwriting: the elements they use, the structuring of each track, the atmospheric passages -- nothing seems to have been thrown in for its shock value or as a gimmick.

Every musical element in _Cold Walls and Apparitions_ seems distant, as if uttered by spirits from behind a veil of mist -- not low in the mix or underproduced, but distant in a sense that befits the title of this album. This is just as true of the electric guitar sound, which is often complemented by cleaner strings and appropriate keyboard touches, as it is of the rhythm section and the ghostly vocal laments. It is as if the elements in Elysian Blaze's music all come from another world and struggle to be heard in our ours -- yet all together they form a powerful entity.

The sheer despondency of the melodies is perfectly complemented by the ambient touches and the faster passages, which are often accompanied by slower clean chords; again, everything connects to the album title in terms of the mood it creates. There is no need for any great virtuosity, but Elysian Blaze's music is neither loose nor excessively simplistic. The band manages to communicate this extreme atmosphere without falling into cheesy or cliché attempts at recreating someone else's superior work. They are not innovators, but neither are they copycats; and above all this is a band that can really select the elements they employ and really make them work together. Furthermore, they avoid any semblance of juvenile angst that can sometimes plague albums; the whole thing sounds damn serious.

As is often the case, especially with this genre, it isn't easy to keep lengthy albums interesting throughout. _Cold Walls and Apparitions_ is no exception to that rule, and while it fortunately keeps its atmosphere intact throughout, it does occasionally struggle somewhat to keep the listener hooked. Nevertheless, this is a shining example of black/doom metal, among the best I've heard. _Cold Walls and Apparitions_ demands attention not only for its quality as a black/doom album, but also for its distinctive sound and accomplished atmosphere, and is highly recommended for anyone who likes plenty of doom with their black metal -- or vice versa.

Contact: http://www.northern-silence.de

(article published 24/8/2005)


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