DYSYLUMN – Cosmogonie (2020)REVIEW

“Whence things have their origin, Thence also their destruction happens, According to necessity” — From all angles of impossible and imagined events, any witness to all creation is pure mythology. Birth from naught is one of several key impossibility posited by Anaximander in reaching for the fluidic infinity of the apeiron wherein the thinker and the student manifests as eternal seeker of origin. What art that’d typically arise from these ponderous notions within the context of the modern western world ceaselessly places a camera obscura in the skull of ‘God’, a cold and impractically distant orator or effector, dependent on perspective. All attempts at projection of any cosmogony that’d model the efforts of physical cosmology rely so heavily on perception and perspective that is known that the practice only reinforces the profundity of the unknowable perspective. Without further revealing any sophist tendencies, I will suggest that artistic depictions arising from unconscious or untrained hands via pure or driven ambition suffice if only for the fact that they arise from vaguely “unknown” origin in depiction of the unknowable. It isn’t the hand, or the eye, of ‘God’ but the will that pulls from apeiron into physical and mental manifestation that represents the very nature and purpose of enlightened humanity. This naturally applies to the stargazing dream-like musing of French black metal duo Dysylumn, who’ve conjured ambitiously sprawling atmospheric guitar music via repetition and whirling motif to illustrate a vision of all creation on a cosmic scale beyond time, from origin to cessation, in ‘Cosmogonie‘. A considerable and entrancing work rooted in atmospheric black metal is made eagerly available but does it land, or soar aimlessly about in the details? With decadence comes decline — Yet this third full-length from the project arrives with eyes free of regret for their witness of arche.

Nothing came from thin air for either musician involved in this Lyon-based duo, each active for some time in formative projects be they symphonic black metal, or brutal death during the last two decades. The start of the decade would spark efforts in tandem, developing early depictions of the infinite sea that would lead the project’s self-titled EP (‘Dysylumn‘, 2013), which was more or less a demonstration that featured two fairly repetitive vignettes. Those same-titled pieces featured in somewhat different form on the duo’s impressive debut full-length (‘Conceptarium‘, 2015) where their balance of black/death metal was a complete hybrid at this point; An appropriately French-feeling realization of occult black/death metal, something akin to compatriots Ominous Shrine with some technical moments that suggested the project might have some dissonant or abstract spirit in their future a la Convulsing, or similar. The major difference, and perhaps what’d put the band on the map within underground spheres early on was tracks like “Esclave Céleste” where spears of often fairly technical genius would prop up moments of fleshed out and fairly average sub-genre movements. Without a doubt understanding pieces of ‘Cosmogonie’ today should ideally entail revisiting ‘Conceptarium’ and at least imagining the standard of the times being exceeded circa 2015 — A small jewel of a record that many have savored in hindsight. Guitarist, bassist, and vocalist Sébastien Besson‘s blackened death metal band with members of Malepeste and Abyssal Vacuum, the aforementioned Ominous Shrine, would release an album in the meantime and when Dysylumn was ready to return one could immediately suggest that everything had changed drastically on ‘Occultation‘ (2018), a paradigm was transgressed unmistakably towards atmospheric black metal. This second album from the project eluded my view upon release and I wouldn’t truly touch bases with the band until their split album with Malepeste released in late 2018, serving as a fine introduction to the methodology and vision of each band. Has so much changed in just a couple of years, or have they chosen to iterate?

‘Cosmogonie’ is essentially a set of three EP-sized works that amount to three chapters (Apparition, Dispersion, Extinction) dispersed into nine core stages (“Apparition I“, “Apparition II“, III, etc.). In terms of physical media and presence each part of the trilogy receives its own tape, LP or digipak (depending on the chosen format) alongside different illustrations from Karmizid gloriously symbolizing that particular stage of the cosmogony described within. This adds up to a full 90 minute experience that intends to convey the accumulation of the cosmos from nothing through its suggested end. These chapters are bookended (or, sandwiched with middle bread) by dark/space ambient pieces that are frankly unremarkable filler that seems to justify splitting the album into three separate pieces. The main event is in those core nine pieces that illustrate the theme of the album via an exhaustion of Dysylumn‘s oeuvre which depends heavily on intentionally repetitive motif and subtle shifts in technique that eventually begin to pull in some of the technical black/death metal phrasing of earlier releases as the album closes. If you simply loved ‘Occultation’ and the promise of 90 minutes of more of that is currently sending ecstatic chills up your spine, you are likely best served by this ambitious and fully hypnotic experience. The direction of the full experience is key in differentiating it from ‘Occultation’ yet the vastness of the music leaves a cold, unfeeling mark upon reflection.

On paper a project as niche-diverse as Dysylumn might resemble anything from Abyssal to Blut Aus Nord but the reality is probably closer to Ævangelist or Njiqahdda in relative description. That isn’t to say that ‘Cosmogonie’ feels like patchwork experimentation but the emphasis on long, obsessively repeated portions of each 8-10 minute piece does at times feel like a functional reality of technology rather than an artistic choice, at least on occasion that the immersion of the whole breaks. Beyond that distinction there is the sense that though ‘Cosmogonie’ is a triumph of elaborate creation these are not insiders, cronies, or folks who appear intent on aligning themselves with their black metal “heroes”. If the band were to appear needy of ‘scene’ or community much of the profundity of this work would somehow feel sporting rather than artful. These might seem like esoteric suggestions on my part but the mood of the entire experience is again, cold and dispassionate in its performative state where it becomes difficult to imagine a performance of its entirety without some fumbling of the inhuman repetition involved. Where the veil of disbelief eases in my mind comes with the vocal performances and small breaks to reflect upon events in between each chapter, the space ambiance provides some spacing yet the separation of physical media switching becomes more important to the full experience beyond packaging as familiarization grows. I won’t pry into detail too intensely but, before I do go into some detail I’d like to suggest that the 90 minute length not deter folks who aren’t die-hard atmospheric black metal listeners, the specifics will certainly not bog most folks down.

Emotional conflict, yearning for knowledge, and wholly non-cerebral judgements dictate the motion of the infinite sea before us. That is to suggest that I could pick through the woven melodic connections that sew “Apparitions” parts I-III together in motif yet the listening experience itself belabors these movements so fully that there is no magic left to ponder. It is a dimensional drilling that finds its own charm in this forceful presentation. “Apparition II” may change up the drum arrangement smartly, choose different notes for the tremolo’d lead guitar hook and generally present a different vocal style yet the effect is entirely a shard from “Apparition I”. It may be cut more severely and with a dream-like post-black interlude but it is a shard from the same cloth nonetheless. Here the vocals become important to create a roadmap of riff and respite, my notes become nonsense quickly as I’d write “Moaning part, stomping part, depressive lead bit” etc. where appreciating ‘Cosmogonie’ on a molecular level began to make entirely no sense. Parts are set together with some sense but these aren’t necessarily “songs” so much as movements in a bigger piece meant to illustrate the clap of the creation, the origin. It is a concept album after all, and stretched to such a limit that to needle through its waves is to drown a bit in the moment without set perspective. The important takeaway here is that man, you are going to need a healthy attention span and perhaps a non-analytical mindset when approaching the greater experience provided. In this sense the Blut Aus Nord comparison begins to stick on a philosophical level, where presentation and technique convey an experience and not necessarily a “riff” album (see: ‘Hallucinogen‘).

Moments of déjà vu on a black metal recording I’ve attempted to know holistically as possible in a relatively short timescale becomes bouts of hallucinatory anxiety, paranoia that either the render I’d received was defective or that my mind was dissolving. Without belaboring this point, it is key to understand that Dysylumn have intentionally used these repeating motifs to engage the listener in what I’d describe as a “cheap but effective” way, these are not sly callbacks but direct flow back to exact riffs or melodies previously attained. I suspect these are inserted to convey the expansion of apeiron, the “infinite becoming” whilst the materials and matter involved are there for the ride. “Dispersion II” might have all but the most dedicated atmospheric black metal listener hoping for something beyond a trailing low-neck tremolo lead to grab onto and at this point we get a very simple <<Yoh, doh doh>> vocal melody that feels more gigantic than it maybe would otherwise next to so many familiar waves as it echoes established forms. The revelation available here is that patient presence will allow greater reveal, it really does demand some amount of quieted and meditative mind. And when I say “demand” I mean the experience will force the issue to some discomfort if you cannot meet it at its own terms. The true test of fealty to the experience as a whole comes with the 10+ minute “Dispersion III”, a piece that resembles the most meandering ache of post-Austere depressive black metal glossiness. I found this to be a breaking point, too much of the same thing dispersed without any truly tuneful graces applied.

Of course, the triangulation of Chapter III: “Extinction” seems cognizant of needed change, order, and well… In this case, death. This is perhaps the much needed “payoff” moment that will change minds who’ve enough resolve to stick it out and see what develops. What has been a creation and a dispersal of life via atmospheric black metal now redirects it’s potential energy towards a vacuum of black/death metal angularity. Yes, the music is still inherently “pretty” and meandering in is lead-driven atmoblack style but some considerable thrust is given via some callbacks to the ‘Conceptarium’ stage of Dysylumn‘s development. These are yet fleeting and subtle portions of this final third of the album; “Extinction I” bookends its structural innards with chaos, “Extinction II” uses dissonance and slower pacing to invoke entropic transfer and perhaps comes closest to early Forgotten Tomb-esque dark metal leads via black metal technique. “Extinction III” brings some atmospheric death shoves and deeper vocal register to its heightened dance. Yes, all nine parts of the main experience begin to express as exercises strung together into composite experience and to pick through them is to find quite average patternation. So, why then is the full experience so worthwhile?

The perspective presented via ‘Cosmogonie’ isn’t that of a ‘God’ so much as it the sensation of transmutation realized in ornately scribbled detail. Yes, the linear three act structure makes for neatly set narrative order and keen gear but the album should be absorbed in moderation, in pieces, and with thoughtful intent; Otherwise it will undoubtedly become mush for the mind to push around a plate. Because I cannot necessarily throw easy comparisons to Darkspace, Mare Cognitum, or other seemingly good fits (such as Starless Domain) in terms of modus and theme my recommendation begins to hone in on a niche that is quite slim and murkily defined at best. Ultimately I tend to prefer such excess when there is good enough reason to justify it and I’d find more than enough extraneous movements/filler along the way. I do believe I understand the scope and the bigger picture of ‘Cosmogonie’ yet I am still unsure if it presents this feat of endurance while managing any real connection with the listener beyond bewilderment and the fascination with its unknowable forms. Such a big ask limits the overall reach of this yet underground gem of excess and as a result, reduces the audience appropriately. A moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. (75/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TYPE:LP [Triple Album]
LABEL(S):Signal Rex
RELEASE DATE:October 9th, 2020
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Atmospheric Black Metal,
Black/Death Metal,
Cosmic Black Metal

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