Midnight Odyssey - _Firmament_
(I, Voidhanger Records, 2010)
by: Chaim Drishner (8 out of 10)
Recorded as a seventy-minutes long (!) demo in the year 2009 and independently released, _Firmament_ had to be properly re-issued, so in 2010 it was, by the excellent Italian (sub)label I, Voidhanger Records -- which later also released the band's official debut (double) album, _Funerals From the Astral Sphere_, a monumental and extravagant work in itself, that was reviewed for Chronicles Of Chaos and even nominated as 2011's best musical output.

Listening to the re-issued copy of _Firmament_ now, after getting acquainted with the band's _Funerals From the Astral Sphere_, a strong feeling of deja-vu engulfs me, due to the fact that to these humble ears of mine, _Firmament_ sounds exactly like a more primitive, less-polished and an under-produced a version of _Funerals From the Astral Sphere_.

Not that it sheds off any of the recording's greatness, and seeing it as being easily obtainable one click of a computer's mouse away, is good a chance to get acquainted with this unique recording, and unique _Firmament_ indeed is; an ethereal and utterly beautiful black metal opus almost without being metal at all; it shares similarities with none of its peers, removed altogether from the 'scene', the album, being the brainchild of one, enigmatic Dis Pater, is characterized by extremely high-pitched vocals, a plodding pace, strange arrangements and a gritty, almost crude a production that stands in stark contrast with the celestial soundscapes the album conjures, what with its ultra symphonic and astral keyboards and its heavenly, thick atmosphere.

_Firmament_ is beautiful beyond your mundane imagination; the thing is, it is just that: simply beautiful, divinely crafted but slightly sloppily executed. The sheer beauty of the album does not leave any room for truly challenging music to enter the stage. Its astral radiance as if swallows everything else and like quicksand it devours everything in its midst, so what you eventually get is a quick fix of almost unbearable beauty, heavily synthesizer laden, and then the effect is over, the overpowering sweetness fades, and one is left wondering what they just listened to.

I know, not all music is bound to challenge the audience, and that is OK. Some music is there just to entertain. Yes? In this counter-culture we consume, entertainment is only a side effect, a bi-product, not the main issue. So listening to a radiating beauty such as _Firmament_, with only very little of those ugly, insidious and sinister elements incorporated in the recording to equalize this sweetness, does not allow the album to become a complete experience. It is very close to being there, a marvelous piece of work that it is, but not quite, not quite.

The only thing that might rebuff the statement above is, again, the bizarrely adequate production which is gritty, grainy and somewhat dirty, lending the music an underground authenticity, but just a tad.

Bottom line, if you are familiar with the band's debut double album _Funerals From the Astral Sphere_, it is by no means mandatory to check out _Firmament_; if you are not, _Firmament_ is an experience you must try for yourselves, at least once, as it will almost blow your mind. Either way, shall we say both _Funerals From the Astral Sphere_ and _Firmament_ are two sides of the same coin; wait, not even two sides, it's more like twins, one is evil and the other is even more so. Both are worthy, although _Funerals From the Astral Sphere_ is a more accomplished work, whereas _Firmament_ will probably appeal more to the aficionados of the underground sound. Recommended.

Contact: http://www.i-voidhanger.com/

(article published 29/7/2012)

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