Without any ruleset informed by new and already weakening traditions the idea of post-black metal is potentially very exciting. If you are lucky enough to be entirely ignorant of the staggering lack of innovation achieved by the once promising (decades old) modernist anti-phallic jangle of post-rock that represents a fruitless, sappy dead-end for modern rock music: The ripeness of those atmospheric guitar techniques aptly attached to millennial black metal’s lo-fi bedroom clatter still threatens to be the purest ambrosia if discovered in earnest, informed selection. The post-black conceit becomes monstrously non-competitive when it essentially boils down to downtempo soft rock or shoegaze (often coined as ‘blackgaze’) filtered through an impression of black metal ethos. The idea that these concepts are interchangeable or effectively meshed becomes truly disgusting as fandom surrounds many post-black projects that are little more than plagiarist guitarists plumbing early 90’s jangle-core while crowing ‘black metal’ as reasoning for low fidelity and lack of compositional skills. Should it all be written off and unexplored as a result? Absolutely not. There are originals and insightful masters growing within even the most charlatan-stuffed festering wounds and I’d count Netherlands based duo Solar Temple among the best of the newcomers.
What they provided on the ‘Rays of Brilliance’ (2017) demo was little more than a sleepy, unconvincing ‘proof of concept’ devoid of vocal interest. Too repetitive an introduction to excite and woefully flaccid in its first impressions, it took concerted effort to see the potential in that tape but it was certainly there. No greater proof of that potential is needed beyond the realization of Solar Temple‘s debut full-length ‘Fertile Descent’. Weighty in its ethereal movements and eased progression, this first glimpse of the detailed and gorgeously slick melodic space these Dutch musicians inhabit is immediately gratifying. The two extended movements on offer act as a ghost haunting the presumably dead corpse of black metal and serve as a mourning apparition of raw black metal’s hissing crunch and clangor; Less a raw impersonation of their mother genre, Solar Temple approach post-black metal with a true understanding of attack and siphon that energy into urgent, nigh artificially sped, post-rock phrasing.
The effect is perhaps more difficult to describe than it is to listen to but I heard hints of Forgotten Woods‘ ‘As the Wolves Gather’ and early Sorcier des Glaces tonality buried beneath the post-rock ooze of ‘Fertile Descent’. The atmospheric spiritus of Urfaust (see: second half of “White Jaw”) and Rhinocervs (‘RH-12’ or so) wrestles in a small amount in terms of vocals and overall pacing and this should be no surprise coming from key members of Fluisteraars, Iskandr and Turia. Whatever a throng of namedrops means to you personally the suggestion is that Solar Temple’s approach is highly informed by the melodic sensibilities and esoteric personality of Dutch black metal moreso than the doldrums of typical blackgaze artists unknowingly emulating Austere or Weakling. I won’t suggest this approach is from some ‘master race’ of forward thinking atmospheric blackgaze ideology but that the flow of these two 15-20 minute songs is captivating and a very easy listen.
The harder sell on this style will undoubtedly be the more traditionally minded black metal fans that find nothing to relate with in the inherent softness that post-rock influences bring to a genre meant to be abrasive and destructive. In this sense Solar Temple are working within boundaries already stretched to accommodate their ideas and they are far from riding the fence, even. Instead ‘Fertile Descent’ is merely pleasant, driving, and ultimately moving as a full listen and the value is both emotional resonance and in the details that arise from repeated immersion. It doesn’t sound like ultra-typical schlocky trash (a la A Light in the Dark, for example) and this comes from varied but certainly obscure vocal arrangements which almost seem to function as ‘soloing’ among the cavernous, echoing adagio of the record; The second half of “Those Who Dwell in the Spiral Dark” provides a worthy example with echoing spoken word underneath delicate choral embellishment. It is so far outside of black metal but works so well within its suggestion with a doom progression underneath and keyboards providing hints of deeper-still layers that’ll have you cranking the volume and slapping on headphones soon enough.
There is much to suss out with repeated listening to this record and I think a lot of my initial admiration came from expecting very little in the first place. With some predisposition to esoteric vocal work and a moderate interest in mutilations of black metal proper Solar Temple landed in the right lap. The mix isn’t so much lo-fi as it is appropriately raw within an echoing, mushy wrapper and the clarity of the master from Greg Chandler (Esoteric, Lychgate) allows for psychedelia and murk without any of the rancorous amateur crackle you’d expect from similar products. At the very least there is a deeper ride for folks who have some interest in what resonance post-black metal is capable of. I am highly recommending ‘Fertile Descent’ because it only ever redeemed in value with time and its extended compositions offer a trip easily repeated.
Gravel embedded souls. 4.0/5.0
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