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Ars Magna Umbrae – Apotheosis

Ars Magna Umbrae
by Ian Yeara at 12 September 2020, 8:26 PM

ARS MAGNA UMBRAE, a suitably Black Metal name. However, I really wasn't sure what to expect, I'm used to hearing more riff oriented Black Metal lately, but this defied any expectations I might have had from the art, the song titles or the band name. This is a serious Black Metal band, aiming pretty damn high. When I sit down and compare the sound of this album, it makes me think of something like THE GREAT OLD ONES (called TGOO for future use) meets DEATHSPELL OMEGA. This is a very thick and chaotic texture, the guitars are layered at least three or four times I can't quite tell, the bass is heavy and distorted and the whole production has this ethereal quality to it, like we're hearing the music through a sheet of falling water. These guys came to play, they are looking to make a name for themselves making unique Progressive Black Metal with enough hooks and riffs to keep you interested.

I'll admit, the first couple songs didn't really have me hooked. It wasn't until I got to the title track that they really started to get my attention. When I went back to properly listen to the whole album I realized there was so much detail and nuance in each song. This is a really impressive accomplishment for these guys and they should be proud of what they wrought, especially since it's not even 40 minutes, making it easily consumable for the music critique with increasingly little time on hand. Despite the length of the album I find myself wishing I had spent more time with it, there's so much detail that it's impossible to catch it all in one, two or even three listen throughs.

The intro is in all honesty the weakest part of the album. I appreciate the atmosphere and the ethereal beauty before the next 30 minutes of Black Metal, but I feel like they could have done more with it. You can have soft quiet music that is interesting and has harmonic rhythm, but really the issue is, it goes on longer than it should for a casual listen, so in the future I see myself skipping it often. Sorry, 3 minutes is my limit for instrumental intros. From there we get right into the Black Metal of it all.

"She Who Splits the Earth" is a nice slab of Black Metal hitting me in the face, there's some moments of oddity with some chromatic sliding around on the guitar, but otherwise this is very much in that TGOO range of atmospheric but still aggressive Black Metal. More specifically it reminds me of "Shadows of Innsmouth". Now, as the album continues I'm enjoying myself, but I'm not blown away. It's heavy and chaotic, but so far it's missing that extra bit of Prog or Doom Metal that I think would take it that extra step.

"Apotheosis" was the first song that really made me pay attention more closely. I really likedthe split in the middle and the doomy and proggy outro made me realize that, yes, this album is doing more than just straight forward Black Metal. Then "Oracle of Luminous" Dark goes and does exactly that and really impressed me. These guys are managing to do really good Black Metal, that dips in and out of Doom and Prog effortlessly. The only thing I want more of is some kind of defined melody that doesn't have a bunch of fully diminished seventh chords, you know just to mix it up a bit like ENSLAVED did when they started to prog it up. Still, I enjoy what we have and the solo in "Oracle" represents pretty much exactly what I would like to hear more of from this band.

"Of Divine Divergence" and "Ignis in Tenebrism" both get doomy and progressive as well. It's almost like the switch in the middle of the title track was the switch for these guys to start writing more Progressive Black Metal. Well anyway, I really dig it.

In the end, I'm really happy I was handed this for review, I might not have discovered how Progressive and Technical it was from the surface. It's not a long album, but it demands your full attention and I'm glad I took the time to. I listen to so much music every year, and of course I miss lots of stuff because I listen to bits and pieces and I develop a shallow opinion of it. This is an album that needs time and attention, it seems easy since it's 39 minutes long, but it's easy to miss the fine details. The last thing I'd like to say; I don't use the TGOO comparison lightly, I consider them to be pretty much the pinnacle of darker more aggressive atmospheric Black Metal and ARS MAGNA UMBRAE is reaching for those heights and I expect great things from their future.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 6
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. Through Fields of Asphodel
2. She Who Splits the Earth
3. On the Wings of Divine Fires
4. Apotheosis
5. Mare Tenebrarum
6. Oracle of Luminous Dark
7. Of Divine Divergence
8. Ignis in Tenebrism
K.M – All instruments
K. TH. – Invocation on "Through Fields of Asphodel"
G.G – Guitar solo on "Oracle of Luminous Dark"
Record Label: I, Voidhanger Records


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