The stakes amongst the artistically driven and most sincere musos of today are dauntingly high when extending any new and exciting hand upon extreme metal. So much so that any half-formed idea or merely shaped stylistic ideation short of perfection is the young death of aspiration. As such the highest standard must be achieved even before arrival and even then, there can be a bit of a queue. Such is the case with Jade, a collaboration between three anonymous artists split between Germany and Spain that sought to shatter the obsidian walls of atmospheric black metal tenets with rousing psychedelia exasperated death/doom on thier first demo cassette, ‘Smoking Mirror’, back in mid-2018. The wait was long but its majesty finally achieves due credit and heraldry upon release as a gorgeously rendered 12″ vinyl here in the dark limits of 2019.
More than an ornamental energetic channel for the ambitions of its creators, Jade is the golden crown-filled tomb of the sky horse, a heavily-weighed death enshrined in the clouds as if a temple made of stone were too earthly for its grandeur. Echoing shouts search the skies and the resounding mountains for the limits of this floating world they’d create, somewhere between the painterly strokes of Bölzer‘s warped vision on ‘Hero’ and the mind-altering atmospheric dread of Tiamat‘s ‘Clouds’, or alternately bit of the more atmospheric elements from recent Ataraxy and Ghastly records; In fact, the vocalist sounds almost exactly like Ataraxy‘s vocalist. These voices echo upwards towards the light while the blackened riffs spiral downward, a storming chasm beneath the resonant bell of Jade upon high. A swinging-yet-pensive psychedelic spur of ‘rock’ flings through these movements but creates no direction that could compete with its airy blackened death/doom strikes and transcendent vocal work. Between the stars and the fiery pits of our dissolving habitable climes levitates this ‘Smoking Mirror’, a fixation for all that’d distract from the everlasting end as it nears.
The four songs here are highly professional album quality tracks that appear fully formed between pristine recordings and well-considered songwriting. Psychedelic doom hooks ring atop atmospheric extreme metal ambiguity on tracks like “Dead Stone Mask” with just enough conviction to alleviate any resignation towards unorthodox death metal rhythms (see: early Phlebotomized). This crossing of nigh death n’ roll progressions, rock soloing, and mid-paced dark metal jogging pace is almost too stylized to be a debut, much less a demo, and ends up bleeding out enough personality to leave a deep impression. Or, at least enough of an impression that I’d kept listening on repeat for hours while beginning to wonder why the demo was met without any great fanfare last year; The limited cassette release was surely a part of it but I’m not one to consider format as a point of legitimization for art.
There are some fair criticisms to be made here, primarily that each of these four songs are similar in expression and pacing. This is part of the effect that the EP has upon the listener during a full listen, a sort of elevated feeling that creates the duality of atmospheric metal, death metal and psychedelic doom at once but it does make sense to conclude that this type of focus wouldn’t work without some greater variation on a full-length. That said, I could see this band fitting nicely on a label such as Ván Records if they were to plumb the extremes of their sound just enough to create a complete journey. The listening experience taken as is remains valuable, fresh sounding, mysterious yet familiar, and a wholly striking listen for folks interested in the psychoactive and atmospheric side of post-‘Sweven’ death metal. Moderately high recommendation, the bone-colored 12″ option is a beautiful thing. For preview purposes I’d suggest that “Dead Stone Mask” is the piece that grabbed my attention and sold the stylistic vision of the band to me up front.
Weeping thy ancient blood. 3.75/5.0
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