The ancient Greek people saw the Gods within every aspect of daily life, an existence rife with superstition and an interconnected point of view between nature, environment, and the unknown supernatural. Hesiod’s Theogony portrayed the Gods in a plainly two dimensional light through lineage and their actions. On the precipice of deletion from curriculum, masters of the western world yet exist outside of philosophical gerrymandering, it bears mention that many would seek to personify the Gods as they’d read them: Within complex tragedies, plays writ by the hand of whomever was lucky enough to survive through printed word as time crumbled and rebuilt Athens a thousand times over. Today, or some years previous, Cemetery Lights sought to convey a new light upon the seeming treacherous manipulation afforded by the Gods through the very atmosphere they’d breathe, their domains. Prose aimed at descriptions of Hades, Tartaros, Elysium, Olympos and beyond all feature as stunning dressing for the very simple-but-effective tyranny of musician The Corpse who’d not move far beyond an old backlog of songwriting for this inspired arcane black metal project in the works for roughly the past ten years. ‘The Underworld’ is a brazenly obscure and driven bout of primitive black metal that’ll satiate only the most deranged fan of the empirical Greco-Roman first wave, myself included.
To start it makes great sense to suggest that ‘The Underworld’ isn’t for you, the modernist nor the retro-primrose eyed loon aiming their arrow at the obscure. Cemetery Lights had been accessibly raw and equally primitive in the past but the sound design, or lack thereof, means that almost none of what is accomplished on ‘The Underworld’ is bombastic or righteously performative at a glance. Unless I’ve lost my mind or been struck by the inevitable aneurysm the sound of this recording is specifically tailored to sound like Rotting Christ‘s absolute mastery on the ‘Passage to Arcturo’ EP and perhaps Mortuary Drape‘s similarly achieved ‘Into the Drape’ EP. Clear but simple drum sound, emphasized bass guitar tone, quiet and sparse guitar sound, and up front nigh claustrophobic vocal performances make this a very close representation of that sound though the guitar tone is a touch less distorted. An argument could be made for likeness to Varathron‘s ‘One Step Beyond Dreams’ demo tape but that thrash guitar tone and ‘death metal’ vocal aren’t exactly as close, though the bass and drum tone are nearly there. Without any enjoyment of these references I’ll assume the appeal of this very minimalistic and oddly balanced sound will be confounding and frustrating for some. I personally enjoy it, particularly when it appears as if two separate bass guitar tracks begin to entwine sans guitar (“Shores of Akheron”).
Beyond the righteously specific demo era Hellenic black metal sound and style being righteously achieved, The Corpse has held close to his chest a group of his finest bouts of songwriting from those formative sessions years past. Bass guitar driven blackened doom arises in the midst of these long and mildly complex epics, each marching on with an austerity reserved for the grand locales they represent. “Olympos” is particularly fitting, reeking of marbled Lycian strongholds and surely “Tartaros” represents the grand inverted doom of its inhabitancy with powerful descending progressions. Even without the lyrics in hand the intention and the narrative can be grasped within the mood created, the effect is akin to that of Root‘s ‘Hell Symphony’ where they’d written similarly sparse odes to the many names of the horned one. Is it exactly as clever or dramatic as the old masters of Greek black metal? In the past I’d have said no, the songwriting just wasn’t there yet, but what has pushed me to at least see this on the same level as say, Necromantia, is the bass guitar performances which do great work to create a memorable and distinct piece that could have been rawly primitive and dull without these adorning movements, such as the ending section of “Fields of Asphodel” or the brilliant compositions of “Hades” where the bass creates its own dynamic presence, from growling beast to percussive rock refrain, throughout.
Again, ‘The Underworld’ isn’t for you, the focus and design of this record is so incredibly specific that you couldn’t possibly hope to soak it in with any meaning unless you’ve devoutly ingested all of the brackish niche regalia of of the last thirty years from the Aegean sea all the way up to lower Silesia. If it all doesn’t click for you by some kind of magick rendering of the human will then I’d at least suggest the aforementioned references as additional listening; Each will provide a broader stroke of context for what makes Cemetery Lights an interesting conception. Nonetheless I can highly recommend ‘The Underworld’ for its unique atmosphere, quality bass guitar performances, and appreciably evoked themes. For preview purposes I’d suggest starting with “Hades” and the pairing of “Shores of Akheron” with “Olympos” for the strongest first impression.
Set afire any eye upon majesty. 4.0/5.0
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