Vesperith – Vesperith (Svart Records, 22 November 2019)
Well, here we are yet again: another year all wrapped up, another stressful holiday season all wrapped up, and all that’s left to do is to suffer the disheartening and depressing effects of the sun rising well after arriving at work and setting almost immediately after leaving for home.
Feels like an appropriate time to talk about some music that is also dark and chilling — as well as being based in (or at least, near) the land of the midnight sun: Finland’s Vesperith. Although not an actual word in English or Finnish (as far as I can tell), it would appear that this name (which is also the title used for this debut full-length album) bears a relation to the words for vespers, the evening star, or simply eveningtime itself.
Even more difficult to accurately put into words is a description of the music itself: distilled to its purest essence, this could be considered a single-member atmospheric black metal band (the only person credited on the album is Sariina Tani, identified as the primus motor), while often sounding far more atmospheric than metal.
Case in point: opening track “The Magi” which includes virtually no real music over its nine-minute running length, save for some powerful, angelic-sounding vocalization — giving off a mystic/ritualistic kind of feeling — set against a backdrop consisting solely of foreboding ambiance and noise. The album ends with the similarly-structured “Solar Flood”; again with various threads of angelic singing and ambiance woven throughout.
So where does the “black metal” element come into the equation? Here and there in between those book-ends, and all over the place as a general aesthetic. Almost halfway through the second song “Fractal Flesh” the sound breaks into straight-up black metal territory, complete with swirling chaotic drumming and growled/snarled vocals — although still we find those sweetly haunting clean vocals way in the background along with more of the ambient synthy stuff, making for a jarring juxtaposition. The only vocals to be found in “Refractions” are distorted howling vocals off in the distance somewhere, accompanied by plenty more ambiance and noise, and some kind of hellish wind-chime sounds.
And the remaining tracks, “Valohämärä” and the penultimate “Quintessence” both feature a mix of noise, ringing cymbals like crashing waves; bits of piano here and ambient synths there; angelic singing for a bit, then raspy blackened snarls. The former track combines piano and drums in a sort of deathly waltz, until eventually the drums go completely off the rails; while the latter evolves from a few bursts of fast drumming to conclude with a driving, pulsating drumbeat and multiple layers of that same gorgeous singing intertwined together.
As we said in the first place, atmospheric black metal, but perhaps an 80/20 split of atmosphere and metal — whether you would rather think of that as experimental, avant-garde, or post-whatever, it all makes for an fascinating amalgam. Enough so that Vesperith worked its way into our Top 19 of 2019 list. You can grab your very own copy right here, or visit the Svart Records webstore if you live in Europe.
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