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Fortress of the Pearl – The Grove

Fortress of the Pearl
The Grove
by Gary Hernandez at 11 March 2023, 11:16 PM

Some people will recognize “The Fortress of the Pearl” as the eighth Elric of Melnibone book in Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion Series. Fewer people still will recognize it as an Atmospheric Black Metal project by the prolific multi-instrumentalist Ayloss. Over the last year he has released two EPs and one full-length album under the moniker of FORTRESS OF THE PEARL. The full-length, “The Grove,” was issued on September 29, 2022.

Looking across 2022, Alyoss released seven albums across five projects. With FORTRESS OF THE PEARL albums Ayloss has experimented with different sounds from Psychedelic Black Metal to Blackgaze to piano-based Atmospheric. The constant with project has been Black Metal. While Ayloss has played in other sandboxes—Epic Heavy Metal, Dungeon Synth, and even High Fantasy Synth—he seems most at home in the dark recesses of the Black Metal estate. As I listened to the album, it occurred to me that this self-isolation, and hence self-struggle, is at the core of “The Grove.”

The album comprises four tracks and follows a cadence of extended – brief – extended – brief. The first track, “A Solemn Sanctuary,” sets the tone with dissonant Black Metal grayscale layered with piano melodies. The track encapsulates the conflict of the title—solemnity and sanctuary. Next up is “First Fluttering,” a light and optimistic track reflecting the hope of what may lay outside. Here we're treated not only to piano but harpsichord. With the third track comes the admission that “At Center Of It All, I Fear What’s Outside”—with “it” being the self, the grove, and, by extension, existence itself. This track is a symphony of contrasting movements. There is peace and chaos, promise and curse, climax and resolution. It concludes with ambient sounds and field recordings of birds and water and wind chimes. With the final track, “Walled Garden” we return to some of the motifs from “First Fluttering,” but here perhaps coming to an acceptance of our space and ourselves, embracing our inner conflicts and dysfunctions.

Altogether, I found “The Grove” a comforting place to reside for the thirty minutes it offers. Like most Atmospheric albums, it exudes emotion and ambiance and mood but, surprisingly, this variation is not all dark. I think most musical projects are about self-discovery. As an audience we are invited to share in that journey and perchance hear echoes and strains of our own. “The Grove” is a place most Metalheads will recognize, a place for outsiders, a place of uneasy respite.

Songwriting: 7
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 6
Production: 7

3 Star Rating

1. A Solemn Sanctuary
2. First Fluttering
3. At the Center of It All, I Fear of What's Outside
4. Walled Garden
Ayloss – All instruments
Record Label: Fiadh Productions


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Edited 28 March 2023

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