Negative Plane - _Stained Glass Revelations_
(The Ajna Offensive, 2011)
by: Dan Lake (8 out of 10)
Somehow, Negative Plane have turned their moniker into sonic reality. With _Stained Glass Revelations_, the band has sculpted a sound that refracts melody, instrumental prowess, and heavy metal songcraft through some kind of anti-light prism that turns rot into rebirth and every family picnic into an audience with the spider-demon Shelob. This music will probably appeal mostly to the adventurous black metal crowd due to its harsh vocals, haunted tones, and percussive aggression, but _Stained Glass Revelations_ rarely allows itself to be so comfortably labeled. Stormy melodies rise regally out of a murk that never quite reaches the filthy depths, thanks to the choral chants, humming organ, and bells that chime liberally throughout the album. Tempos shift from blackened blasting to doomy trudging to the nodding groove of an alternate-universe rock song, often (as in "Lamentations & Ashes") within a single track. Every riff is bent into geometric impossibilities and painted with violent alien colors.

Maybe _Stained Glass Revelations_ should be subtitled _Flight of the Fire Bats Through the Lair of the Necromancer_. Or maybe I've played too much "Diablo II" and should never be allowed to name records. Ill-advised or not, the imaginary subtitle above describes the _SGR_ sound exactly. Searing leads flutter around a melodic core, barely brushing a note before flitting on to the next. Vocals match the music's crooked cathedral vibe, conjuring images of a cranky old wizard cawing ancient curses into the darkness. Numbering the strengths of individual tracks here ("Angels of Veiled Bone", "All Souls", etc.) is futile, given a) the sonic unity that the band accomplishes throughout the record, and b) the abundant wealth of those strengths. Most tracks consist of several rhythmically and melodically distinct parts, which immediately propels Negative Plane ahead of the legions of bands whose only goal is mindless aural punishment. Even the stylistically deviant transitional tracks bear interesting compositional qualities. The introductory bells of "The Fall" have hardly taken the stage before the stately growl of doomy distortion takes them to another place entirely. The echoing piano in "The Third Hour" casts its own frightening spell, while "Stained Glass Reflections" consists of cascading layers of warbly organ before the final onslaught of the album's title track.

Without a lyric sheet, it's impossible to get an exact read on Negative Plane's philosophical approach, but the music hints at occult rituals administered in a deep and majestic cavern lit only by the magma rivers running through it. With a production that achieves an echoey clarity, even the more rock-oriented moments play like the soundtrack to a horrific reading of The Sorcerer's Apprentice. _Stained Glass Revelations_ does not relent in its atmospheric purpose, and it does not disappoint.


(article published 19/4/2011)

2/11/2007 J Montague 8.5 Negative Plane - Et In Saecula Saeculorum
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