What happens when we die? It's a question that simply cannot be answered; not by me, by you, or by anyone walking this planet right now. Sure, we all have opinions or beliefs that we can rest our heads on. But nothing is for certain. Doctors, scientists, religious figures, everyone has tried to definitively put to rest that which is unknown. Light? Darkness? Nothing at all? For German one man project Lebensnacht, there is a different answer. On this, his third studio album, he examines the possibility that when the days come to an end, you meet with your inner self in an unstable and undefined space, "where raging chaos and ultimate universal law unite into eternity." Heavy, weighty thoughts. But how, through an album of ambient and sometimes heavenly black metal, can he explain his theory? Uudelleensyntynyt Ikuiseen Pimeyteen speaks for itself. And it speaks loudly.
Even within the first few seconds of Erwacht, you are given the sense of floating through an expansive abyss. The tempo is relaxed, but not plodding along. And that key distinction helps form the balance between slow and deliberate. Yes, the production lacks an overall clarity, but but yet it somehow draws you in with the fuzzy guitar and bass. Even as Blutmeer takes that one step further, coating the entire mix in a grainy distortion, it doesn't push the envelope too far. To that point, however, it is the more solemn and atmospheric sections that resonate most loudly, both in writing and production. These pieces, scattered at opportune times throughout the album, allow the central melodies to shine through. It also, by contrast, makes the harsh vocal lines all the more prevalent. In Blutsturm, the two come face to face, as a guitar and voice clash, as light and dark do in our minds. Even when the execution isn't perfect, the set up of one section before the next is well thought out. As chaos gives way to cloudiness, Tranzendenz establishes itself as the complete package, balancing sections of heart beats and pianos with levels of distortion that would push the most high end audio equipment to the brink.
Where it leaves off, Zwiegespräch picks up. This isn't as subtle and forgiving in delivery, but it echoes the same emotional response. The brightest spots on the album come when the darkness surrenders to the light, something that, sporadically, can be the difference between success and failure. The balance here isn't perfect, but it resides in the gray area between the two. It seems to be the intention to walk that line without grace, trouncing and jumping from one side to the other in clumsy changes of mood. Erkenntniss changes that stance, showing a great deal of patience in the musical progression, and also adopting a fair amount of subtlety in the eventual shift. Even with the production now mirroring the tin can of old school black metal, there is a fair amount of sway and beauty to be found. The story can be captured here more than ever; having gone through turbulence to arrive at some degree of peace, Ende sees ocean waves crashing on solemn shores. The worst is over, and you find yourself relieved.
You can choose to accept or deny the premise on which this album is constructed. That choice, which is always up to the listener, may have a large stake in how much or how little the album means to you. Lebensnacht, or at least the man behind the name, explores that which cannot be answered. And while this collection of tracks won't make you change your mind, or reevaluate your belief structure, it does, through sound and structure, create a fairly vivid picture of what this person believes to be true. That, in and of itself, is an incredible feat. But where the album succeeds intellectually, it doesn't always do so in the literal sense. The lackluster production is a distraction far too often, masking so many of the most intensely performed sections. You can strain your ears to pick out key melodies, important changes in mood and tempo, but with each fuzzy guitar chord, it becomes more and more difficult to dissect the layers beneath. It leaves Uudelleensyntynyt Ikuiseen Pimeyteen at odds with itself; much like the inner struggle it represents.
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