Veldes - Descent (2015)

A wise man once told his greatest friend, "Know your limits." Sure, that man was Alfred Pennyworth, beloved butler to Bruce Wayne. In response, Mr. Wayne reminds Alfred that Batman has no limits. It speaks to one man's desire to avoid a deadly failure in someone he holds dear. But if Mr. Wayne had reconsidered his position, Gotham might have perished at the hands of the Joker or any one of the slightly-off characters that have threatened it since. Musically, the story is often the same. One man bands being reminded of their limitations, told that they can't reach the same heights as their multi-member counterparts. But, like Batman, they continue to reach higher. It's lucky for us, then, that no one has sought to put the shackles of reality around the ankles of Tilen Šimon, who, at his fingertips, has created another immensely emotional album under his Veldes moniker. Much like 2014's Skyward EP, Descent marries the light and dark sides of the genre in a beautiful matrimony.

Šimon continues to take giant leaps forward in every stage of the process. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find an artists better utilizing the piano in a black metal piece in the world today. His ability to write and perform such a sweepingly touching melody on the piano, while strumming distorted chord after distorted chord just behind it is incredible. In doing so, the duality of the lyrics - nature and human emotion - become all too real. In a combination of harshly screamed passages and well constructed clean portions, those comparisons are made, solidified, and proven to be true. Watcher of The Fading Light does all of this and so much more in a framework that may seem bloated at fourteen-plus minutes, until you've actually heard the entire piece. The mechanics of it are impeccable, but this isn't a sterile, one dimensional track. It bends and moves, it sways and folds onto itself. By the end, so much of it will have become ingrained in your frontal lobe that you may need a second pass to take it all in.

And while Reign Of The Withered is marginally shorter - almost ten minutes in length - it possesses the same captivating effect. It brings the hair on your arms to rapt attention in the first minute, thanks to a harsh, perfected black metal screech. Like the track that comes before, though, it refuses to be held into one standard shape. The jagged corners of the first passage shrink into beautifully smoothed edges, once again elevated by the presence of the piano. There are, in fact, moments where you feel as though you've drifted into an earthly lullaby, light, singular notes echoing in the breeze. And yet, even when the tranquility is broken at the seven minute mark, it still continues to hold the air of solemn beauty. The entire lyrical component of the album is barely a few lines, but it stands as mountainous as the music itself.

I will drown in the tears of the earth,
drink the sorrow from her veins
I will sink into her eyes of a blue sky,
beneath horizons,
lay among the golden fields of wheat
beneath the sun, beneath the moon.

It's too easy to read into the symbolism of an album, and in doing so we often confuse the message. But side by side, Skyward and Descent are a fascinating pair. In the former, there was an added raw element, which seemed to echo the artwork, which was clouded and blurred by fog. In the latter, Šimon has stripped away some of the haze and revealed a magnificent landscape. And, as you can see, the artwork reflects that. That rambling aside, it's Šimon's greatest gift, pairing two starkly contrasting elements together in a relationship that, on paper, might seem destined to fail. But not only has he made it work in a profound and moving way, he's done it numerous times. And for those who are and have remained skeptical, it would take one listen, barely 25 minutes of your time to hear what you've been missing. But then again, you won't listen once. It'll be twice. Or three times. And it might not stop there. Our hope for Veldes, going forward, is that when someone does whisper those words, "Know your limits," into his ear, Šimon has the sense to ponder for a moment, turn back and replay, "this music has no limits."


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