MIDNIGHT ODYSSEY – Biolume Part 2 – The Golden Orb (2021)REVIEW

For light is the noble bond between the perceiving faculty and the thing perceived, and the god who gives us light is the sun, who is the eye of the day, but is not to be confounded with the eye of man. This eye of the day or sun is what I call the child of the good, standing in the same relation to the visible world as the good to the intellectual. When the sun shines the eye sees, and in the intellectual world where truth is, there is sight and light.” Plato, Republic

Beset by the gracelessness of our dissolving flesh in unworthy tribute to the underworld, the curved brow of the aegis-bearer no longer piles cairn in response to what withering conjure of what personal luminance humanity sustains. By salvation or cruelty, the dry-rotten cough of the desert is the first symptom of shock upon the corporeal as the blisters of Helios Hyperion scour away skin in assail of the withering species. An unbearable, slow carbonization leaves only what Heraclitus‘ fire cannot erase, the quintessence of man as fiber to be mercilessly hewn into betterment. As refuse or righteous byproduct, all Gods-enslaved æther serves no real purpose though it may be honed via self-recognition, the awakening of our collectively miniscule and easily absorbed beasthood. By tripping the bounds of the natural world and setting eyeglass upon the sun god’s radiance we speed toward settlement of due wrath; This equal opposing force of nature represents no manner of mercy upon the innocence of a last generation of humanity, there is no sentimental loss inherent. Exactly as damning as this consequence for mindlessness should be, we muse upon the searing end for the sake of the second part of Australian extreme metal titan Midnight Odyssey‘s Biolume, a trio of conceptual full-length records. ‘Biolume Part II – The Golden Orb‘ is, without hyperbole intended, a great work of heroically stated atmosphere that’d brandish its sword through the halls of epic doom metal and succeed in bemusement of the unthinking. For the rest of us, it will prove an eruption within the chest as most valuable tribute to our gradually unenlightening endtyme.

How on Earth did we get here? We begin beyond the empty tracts of a city in southeastern Queensland (Australia) in the dark-forested mind of a musician active under the name Dis Pater circa 2007, wherein he’d assign name and intent to this new being beyond six years worth of prior musings over black metal. A fairly normal amount of formative thought to pour into one’s craft while developing a strong work ethic, which I’d posit as reason enough to consider Midnight Odyssey‘s demo recordings being comparable to full-lengths. Influenced by Scandinavian atmospheric black metal of the 90’s, darkwave, gothic/melodic doom metal, all manner of ambiance and ancient folk there is the sense that the core of this project were glom’d with swirling palatial vision in mind, bearing keyboard/synth enhanced bombastic melodicism and the deadpan emotional dread shared between these various influences — Inspirational works of arcane emotion from an era today’s youth pine and stress to revive. We will celebrate the past in the harsh light of the present but I’d like to first emphasize that ‘Biolume Part II – The Golden Orb’ is a work outside of time, a nostalgia too deeply rooted in the human psyche to even bear mentioning nearby whatever classic era of heavy metal sport it may initially recall. In this sense it is an appreciably modern work pulled from ancient codons.

One of few vital additions to atmospheric black metal’s lotus fully splaying beyond cascadian depressive post-dirges within the early 2010’s, the first era of Midnight Odyssey is a distinctly ambitious hand-crafted muse that’d continue to hold up well within contemporary scrutiny. ‘The Forest Mourners‘ (2008) demo CD-r, which was later remastered, represents a distinct admixture of heavily forested dungeon synth and “cosmic” atmospheric black metal; A feat that figures its way through funeral doom sized progressions, easing melodies guided by synth and signature slow builds. A major voice to start, yet by the second demo/CD-r (‘Firmament‘, 2009) the guitar performances and black metal elements become increasingly dominant. Though it has since been remastered and made its way to vinyl beyond various other reissue, this is the one piece I’d say had an unmixed “demo” quality to the original form, largely due to the loudness of the programmed drums. The further case for these otherwise fully formed and considerable standalone works (‘Firmament’ was 70 minutes, ‘Funerals…’ 125 minutes) being demo level material comes with consideration for the concurrent work on Dis Pater‘s first full-length for the project, ‘Funerals From the Astral Sphere‘ (2011). It was impossible to avoid the buzz for this release when it became widely available and not necessarily in terms of music journalism but rather via folks whom I surround myself with that live for atmospheric black metal. The album art, painted by Dis Pater along with most of his early works, is permanently the “thing” which I associate with the name Midnight Odyssey because it was discussed, displayed and enjoyed for years with a personal circle. These were considerable experiences to look back upon, not only in terms of the practical length of each release but a certain level of engaging immersion that allows for a meaningful, none-too-subtle melodic fixation of its own. I see this release as a cursory (on my part) conclusion of the first era of the project, not a shuttering of continuity but some pronounced movement away from becoming too squarely defined by a niche of black metal.

At this point we see the four year gap between releases supplemented by split releases and collaborations generating some well-founded notoriety, at least beyond being casually lumped in with the ideals of projects like Darkspace and Paysage d’Hiver, which is no slight either way yet their relation is at least equally vague as the term “atmospheric black metal” is between generations bearing said tag. The notably epic 20+ minute entrance of “From a Frozen Wasteland” that kicks off ‘Shards of Silver Fade‘ (2015) is perhaps his most important stride forth from the artist to keep in mind as we approach ‘Biolume Part II: The Golden Orb’; The song being characterized by its epic prose via clean and beautifully harmonized vocals piercing through nearly ~fourteen minutes of introductory synth-driven expanse that both echoed, expanded and contrasted upon the similar introduction ‘Funerals From the Astral Sphere’ provided on the previous record. At this point we were in full view of the Summoning and ‘Nordland’-era Bathory fan arisen in the keyboard/synth work and likewise provided a clear taste for tones that could only come from the early post-millennium brand of symphonic black, viking, and folk metal ideals. If these observations suggest I’ve not spent enough time with that album to stab at its definitive heart, absolutely. It takes some concerted study to fully soak in just one full album from this artist much less take on the full discography and summarize it with any sincerely apt description. There is not reasonable shorthand for what Midnight Odyssey does that’d sum the body of work, these are book length pieces that must be appreciated within a novella sized format, unless you are willing to spring for the enviable triple LP vinyl sets. It begs the question of how important the entire history of an artist is when their latest work is a remarkable shift in paradigm, so remarkable that to emphasize the past would be akin to illustrating a great miles-long wall crafted for years on end, detailing every shape and every stone alongside the nature of the light it refracts throughout the day before presenting a shadowy door in its midst and simply passing through it… unto another fathomless reality, doubly colorful and voiced as if a dysangelic symphonic doom operetta. Well, that is ultimately what it felt like to land within ‘Biolume Part II – The Golden Orb’ after weeks of preparatory contextualization of prior works. Oeuvre amongst common ancestors is readily observable yet this is its own grand indulgence, a weighted event that sits upon the skull with the intimacy of a crown.

Of course every detail counts, serious engagement with ambitious art necessitates the context of provenance as we posit the need to leave future generations with tangible access to meaning within a glut of unrepresented artistry. A philosophy which lines up nicely with what Biolume‘s first volume (‘Biolume Part I – In Tartarean Chains‘ 2019), which’d explored cyclic generational usurpation and succession, a meditation upon impermanence in terms of dissolving flesh and stone with consideration for what is held within lineage despite the natural order of all things. It was also remarkably meditative compared to ‘Shards of Silver Fade’, a motivational narrative concerned with reverence for inviolable natural ordo and what mindset in spite of this might build a man towards great feats. At the time interviews suggested that there would be three volumes to contain a wealth of material assumedly penned beyond 2015 and that the second part of a trilogy would be “different”, with the third to follow suit. In my mind, stunned into the thawing dirt of near-Spring by the weight of ‘Biolume Part II – The Golden Orb’, this was an understatement. We now witness the vocal prowess of ‘Shards of Silver Fade’ applied to synth driven epic heavy/doom metal pieces, which stomp and chorale with the sombre force of Scald and (late) Bathory, the expressive folken gait of Solstice (England) and the shambling marches of Summoning while taking notes from medieval bard craft and nearby ancient musical storytelling mediums. There are yet moments akin to epic black metal, black/doom metal, and yes even very light atmospheric death/doom metal vignettes which help to keep the ~103 minute triple LP theatrically viable without veering off into too many unknowns. Though I would admit to underappreciating the breadth of performance on some past Midnight Odyssey releases and as a result being side-swiped by the impact of this one upon first listen, the final product is exceptionally unique beyond this discography alone. The closest act in my personal collection I could reasonably pull in reference is perhaps Shambless on their more recent records and only because of some shared interest in the atmospheric values of classic Summoning. So, what you’ve loved about this project in the past is available minus the atmospheric black metal attunement traceable to the first album.

We must face certain realities when presented with challenging longform music created within an idiosyncratic vision as the length of the piece is less likely to see full examination from a certain crowd, much in the same way this too-long review will find a high percentage of mouse wheels and fingers scrolling hard to the score at the bottom for the gist. This isn’t an experience tailored to the attention-deficit/hyper active crowd and even with qualifiers like “epic doom metal” and a history of atmospheric black metal in place Biolume‘s second part is yet thirty percent longer than part one. I am without complaint on this issue, I’ve no problem maintaining engagement with a heavy metal record for a couple of hours at a time. This should suggest that the epic heavy/doom metal crowd and general admirers of past Midnight Odyssey works will not be alienated by ‘Biolume Part II – The Golden Orb’, especially you’ve been wearing holes in second hand copies of ‘Will of Gods Is a Great Power’ and ‘Stronghold’ for the last however many years. “Dawn-Bringer” offers an immediate test of resolve as its nigh 21 minute introduction to the experience bears its own elaborate three act reveal. A martial fantasy synth approach, dramatic ‘symphonic’ doom build, and fanfare unto the jogging blackened heavy metal riffing gallop beyond the ~7:15 minute mark quickly erased any concern for the length of the experience. Not all pieces are as densely packed with commanding throngs of inspired songcraft but this first high point of brilliance is not an island at sea. The use of fanfare, or martial drum backed horn sections on this opening song sees some small reprise on a section of “Rise of Thunder” and incorporation into some rhythms on “The Unconquered Star” yet I felt like this was a technique or, sound, I’d wanted threaded deeper into full listen. Of course this is without any concern for the narrative on my part, if we consider the initial third person voice of the lyrics on “Dawn-Bringer” and the first person presentation of the other eight tracks there is some meaningful separation of tone and character throughout.

As we move on to “Saffron Flame” the use of ethereal chorale, folkish instrumentation, heavy rock influenced guitar movements and a gloomy, exasperated core melody in conveyance of a titan-sized ‘campfire devotional’ moment in preparation and paranoia, though the piece is no lesser theatrical statement I can see the suggested influences for the album most clearly melding in meaningful ways. “The Golden Orb” breaches the extreme atmospheric doom barrier first in depiction of meeting the dawn goddess, in fact the narrative heavily anticipates the coming of daylight on this piece with references to Eos and later Helios appearing beyond the unveil of a fellow freed from shackles and cave beyond the first record in this conceptual whole. We reach a purposeful apex of action here, as the Theogony inspired dramatic mythos depicts post-patricide punishment due wherein, all things considered, I’d generally had Cronus in mind for this narrative based on ‘Part I – In Tartarean Chains’, in view and anticipation of the usurper meeting his own ambition in his son’s eyes. Setting the fine cover artwork from ‘In Tartarean Chains’ next to ‘The Golden Orb’, each from Elijah Tamu, acts as striking depiction of this mythos. The lyrics offer a most crucial angle in fully sorting out the symbolism within the narrative and this task alone will extend the value of the full listen considerably on my part. It would be fair to say that the gusting bellows of “Below Horizon” offer a second (or third) wind to the full listen with its chugging gallops and inspired synth hits, which’d briefly revived, or recalled, my auld obsession with Ancient Rites‘ ‘Rubicon‘ back in the day. The freedom of movement enjoyed by these longer pieces (“Below Horizon” is ~17 minutes) is certainly a most comfortable zone for Dis Pater‘s work and this shines most brightly when observing the compositional detail of each song. The final act ultimately leads us back to an earlier reference to the vocal piece that opens Midnight Odyssey‘s second record being within earshot of the more simply lain “When the Fires Cool”, the neoclassical/darkwave side of the artist finding the appropriate mood for the end of this second chapter of the trilogy.

In a cycles of reflection and post-listen analysis the resonance of ‘Biolume Part II – The Golden Orb’ was immediately appreciable as an energizing event, this is somewhat in opposition to the typical drained dissociation that comes from repeated study of epic and longform ‘atmospheric’ music. The spark of influence might’ve been readily apparent to start but as the details of alluring mental associations faded into a broader scoped experience the enchanting melodic nature of the record became a major takeaway in view of past Midnight Odyssey releases. Striking and surreal in motion, there is a great mountain to climb in fully soaking the wealth available and despite thousands of words on my part I’ve only breached what interest could me taken to the music itself. The daunting aspects of the full listen can be zoomed into for clarity and away from for respite, the resolution of the specimen itself remains astonishing. No doubt I have been a fan of this project since 2013 but with this second part of the Biolume trilogy the magnetism somehow becomes exponential with this great work. The task now becomes deeming this record as essential beyond a personal fixation, what ultimately pushes me towards the highest spectrum of recommendation is the involved nature of the songcraft, these are not simply beautifully designed moments but enriching songs that are served with an obviate passion and skill. Of course it also helps that this shift in style is surprisingly some of the artist’s best work. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (95/100)

Rating: 9.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Biolume Part 2 – The Golden Orb
LABEL(S):I, Voidhanger Records
RELEASE DATE:March 19th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Epic Atmospheric Doom/Heavy Metal,
Atmospheric Black/Doom Metal

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