Review: Monte Penumbra “As Blades in the Firmament” [End All Life Productions / Oration Records]

Review: Monte Penumbra “As Blades in the Firmament” [End All Life Productions / Oration Records]

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The Portugal experimental blacksters Monte Penumbra have returned this March with a new creation “As Blades in the Firmament”, more and more descending into deep murky waters of avant-garde obscurity. And this time they’ve joined the forces with Icelandic independent label Oration Records and French End of All Life Productions focused on sophisticated and original black metal scene.

“As Blades in the Firmament” is their only second full-length release, apart from a couple of splits and one EP five years ago. This kind of music demands huge energetic reserves, it is soaked in desperation and deathly experience of ritualistic horror and chaotic dissonance, and yet it sounds coherent and musically integral. This record is close to a concept of depressive black metal with doom metal mournful slowness, but at the same time its atmospheric nature numbs the depressive mood, flooding with piercing coldness, more common to Scandinavian classical black metal scene. And the big influence of French black metal aristocracy is so audible from their non-standard musical structures and avant-garde perception. It’s absolutely non-describable, this music is full of esoteric layers and gloomy distant echoes, totally dipping the listener into this anti-cosmic journey, free from boundaries and external stimuli. But Monte Penumbra are familiar with the avant-garde black metal scene, but still, they’ve managed to create their unique style, maybe a bit noisy and chaotic, but nevertheless, unusual and self-centered. They lack a calculating evilness of Mayhem or precise gloss of Code; they focus more on the inner feelings through the occult background and disharmonious moves.

The strangest and the most dissonant feelings create the chaotic drums of Icelandic guest drummer Bjarni Einarsson, his style of drumming is really otherworldly and is so perfect for this complicated music, overloaded with noises and effects. Esoteric approach is also responsible for this moody and unorthodox image, the creepy whispers, chants and over-emotional screams fill every song with a religious awe (especially the tracks “Black Mould on Rye Grass” or “Trephining the Severed Head of the Oracle”). The mastermind of this project W.uR did his best in all his talents – the high-pitched guitar riffs pierce through with the power of the storm, the loud and unnaturally low bass lines increase the occult drama, and the diversity of his singing experiments from monotonousness to aggressive shrieks tears off all the veils, displaying the nakedness of the soul. And psychedelic sounds and ambient passages only strengthen the feeling of frustration and abandonment (“To Anoint the Dead” or “Trephining the Severed Head of the Oracle”), creating a cathartic catastrophe in the minds of the listeners. Yes, this music is full of contradictions, so no wonder, that it is so painfully meditative.

The occult bands among black metal scene are not a rare sight nowadays, but not many bands can transform this ritualistic mood into the wall of darkness and chaotic vortex. “As Blades in the Firmament” is a perfect soundtrack to a solitary journey into the darkest depths of one’s inner self.

Release date: March 26, 2021

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