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Whilst it’s easy for those unfamiliar with the genre to perceive black metal as simply being a combination of blastbeats, corpse paint and Satan, even a short time exploring the music will make clear that it is one of the most varied styles of metal. Whilst there are those who worship at the altars of pure brutality and low-fi production, there are other souls who use black metal as the basis for something more noble and transcendent. Cosmic Church are one such band, as latest release Ylistys shows.
The whole album carries with it an aura of cold and worship, in the most elemental sense; the cover art is a superb reflection of this. Sole member Luxixul Sumering Auter recently gave an interesting, cryptic interview to Zero Tolerance magazine about the importance of God to his work, making clear that this is not god in any traditional Judeo-Christian sense, but something more primal and rooted in nature, which connects everything to everything else. It’s a lofty concept, and Luxuil’s execution of Burzum-influenced black metal lends itself perfectly to such concepts.
Musically, there is nothing that deviates too far from the template of classic Burzum, though it is certainly a case of inspiration rather than imitation. The songs are long – the shortest is 7 minutes, and three last for over 10 minutes – yet they never drag, relying mainly on subtle deviations of riffs to prevent stagnation. There are times where the music will wash over the listener, carrying you away to some other place. That’s not to say it’s boring at all, or that the music is not interesting enough to keep attention held; it feels instead that it was the intention to take the listener away from their environment, and use the music as a kind of guide for exploring their thoughts.
There are still stand-out moments that are absolutely thrilling, however. The closing minutes of fourth track Maailmojen Peilin Takaa (“Beyond the mirror of worlds”) features some superb guitars and subtle keyboards that elevate the music to something that is beyond mere metal; the piano punctuating the opening to second track Näkyjä indigolähteeltä (“Visions from the indigo-source”) is as cold as snow; and the clean vocals on fifth track Lupaus äänettömälle äänelle (“A promise to the soundless voice”), provided by guest musician Rauta (of Circle Of Ouroborus, amongst others), will stay with you for days. This is perhaps the greatest strength of the album. Whilst it has clearly been written and constructed as a whole body of work, and deserves to be listened to as a whole, there are more than enough outstanding moments to provide immediate thrills. Special mention must also go to the drumming. This is the first Cosmic Church release Luxixul has played drums on, and he does a superb job. There are plenty of moments of subtle changes and fills to show that they are not merely an after-thought as they often seem to be in many one-man bands, and his control when blasting is very tight.
At 75 minutes it is a very long album, and may seem difficult to appreciate on initial spins, such are the demands it places on the listener. Yet once you tap in to the spirit of what it is trying to achieve and communicate, and let not only the music but also the feeling of the album flow through you, it will become clear that this is one of the strongest Burzum-influenced black metal releases of recent times. It’s no surprise that the vinyl edition sold out extremely quickly, and any fan of black metal that aims for more than mere brutality is highly advised to track down a CD copy while they still can.