’A – Egrégore (2022)REVIEW

Sleep, sleep, ye indolent mortals; rest, and still rest on your soft couches; smile at your dreams of festivals and grandeurs. The angel of the covenant has come down on your mountains; He has written his name even in the cups of your flowers; the rings on his feet have touched the rivers which are your pride and hope; the oaks of your forests have borrowed the tincture of a new morning from the radiance of his brow; the sea has made answer to his glance with a yearning leap. She has gone before him; prostrate yourselves upon the earth and be not alarmed at the continuous sound heard in the graves beneath.Eugène Vintras [excerpt from ‘A History of Magic‘ by Éliphas Lévi]

Feeling the heated pulsation of our depleting yuga’s curse in translation as that of the four horsemen’s trample coming down, arcane French atmospheric-progressif black metal troupe Bâ’a concern themselves with the deeply scar-torn mentality of the masses at present. A procession and reinforcement of mental singularity, in respite and for the sake of one’s own freedom from the resonance of others, is sought with the goal of self-mastery wherein a transcendental vision of the divine is revealed. In disillusioned stance appraised from the perception of the hermetic alchemist, their second full-length album, ‘Egrégore‘, presents itself as a stairway to an enlightened sort of pre-apocalyptic realization, a thought that is more practical than it’ll likely read at a glance. More drang than sturm, the essential conflict of these recordings is their well-buried emotional outbursts which occur in process of personal transformation. The shroud lifts slowly as if a grey cataract sliced away in miniscule layers — a vision of pitiless watchers, sulking in the ruinous geist of collapsing civilization, resolves.

New and old, dark and light, ruin and restoration, good and evil — These sorts of cyclic realities and supposed dependent dualities lie at the heart of Bâ’a‘s conceptual undertaking as they’ve worked to present a ‘modern’ black metal act which is influenced moreso by the old ways and ancient mindset/attitude rather than plainly copped from the littered sheet music of the mid-90’s black metal inspire. The important note(s) in presenting ‘Egrégore‘ as an exceptional piece is twofold, the first being that it is a record subdued by its intentioned production values which are quiet yet wholly dynamic and secondly that this subtly-set render hides a grand musical personae which has developed quickly within the space of two records. If you’ll recall I’d reviewed their first release, a three-way split with Verfallen and Hyrgal, back in 2018 with compliments to their vigorous fluid movement and this’d been a key trait informing their stoic 2020 debut full-length ‘Deus Qui Non Mentitur‘ an album that was a bit more clearly set in its inspiration of ancient melodic black metal phrasing and modern atmospheric black metal arrangements, making for a sound that could translate to both Wolves in the Throne Room-based exaggerations such as Der Weg einer Freiheit as well as fans of the old hateful thrones of groups like Seigneur Voland and Dissection. A bit of a stretch if taken too literally, sure, but the gist of this thought is that the essence of the old ways marries with the thoughtful lilt and mastery of the newer consciousness within Bâ’a‘s worldview.

Whereas ‘Deus Qui Non Mentitur‘ included exploration of devastated atmosphere and a few pitches into the void of doomed atrophy for its biggest moments ‘Egrégore‘ arguably peaks within its long-form melodic development of motif, which tends to render most clearly within the more patient extended pieces on this six track, ~43 minute album. Opener “In Umbra et Luce” is by far the longest piece and to some degree the big hill to climb as we are introduced to this extension of voice beyond Bâ’a‘s debut, its kick into anxious whorl ~1:46 minutes in setting a tumultuous tone which is greatly expanded within the next handful of ranting verses. Though my ear for French is brutally decayed over the years the lyrics seem to portray conflict between the soul and the flesh, hence “in the darkness and the light”, which supposes a Gnostic-adjacent view of humanity as ‘fallen’ and unworthy of transcendence by their very nature which bears some ties with the over-arching theme of the previous album and is complimented by solemn hymnal chorale as the piece ends. The seeds of truly affecting melancholic thought are set herein but this exploration is not entirely dreary, there is still plenty of kick left in their legs as we continue.

“Domitor” is my suggestion as an exemplar piece from the still-additive Bâ’a oeuvre, a more brisk and sweeping melodic black metal piece with subtle movements developing within its droning station. A falcon’s call and a few melodic notions are spikes that’ll register first but the relative simplicity of musical statement is what I’d been left with in appreciation of this song as well as its differently stated yet compounding companion “Bellum”. These two pieces round out Side A with distinct tonality yet each is carved in its own stone, pushing an uptick in intensity steadily as not to stall their engine at the growing apex of these events. I’d found the sampled conversation within “Bellum” as distracting to start but otherwise a marker on the full listen for the halfway point of the narrative as Side B presents a quietly pooled confluence (“Fames”) in getting to the great peak of “Obitusque”, the great ‘stabbing towards the sky’ highlight of ‘Egrégore‘ beyond its outsized opening piece. As we hit ~3:03 minutes into this final day before death the tarantella of this progression takes about two minutes to state its central phrase which is expounded and restated for the duration of the piece, this might be a quaint and/or lovely moment out of context but it acts as an important theatric climax for the vision of the album as a choral reprise warms the piece’s finale with an even more subtle baritone register. From there we get the strike of the burning masses’ fists upon the gates with “Urbi et orbi Clamant”, the most rhythmically exciting piece on the album and its closer which expertly guides us back to the beginning of the experience.

The dynamic of the full listen is successfully narrative in its intent but never so obviously stated that the disconcerted or uninquisitive listener will pierce those emotional depths. It’ll take some active listening, an appreciation for the symbolism inherent, and maybe a bit of Latin and French translation to see the ‘self’ removed from the masses within these events portrayed in dialogue. If you are prone to thoughtless listening there is yet so much to enjoy here for folks whom enjoy tuneful and modern atmospheric black metal with a strong melodic edge, these being subtle movements delivered with a professional (yet understated) production value. I personally found myself falling into the pit of ‘Egrégore‘ and loving the outcome of each listen, which would range from an enchanting sort of torment unto transcendence or at the very least the core defiance of black metal stated in a beauteous, poetic way. You might remember the trauma of accidentally cutting your finger with a knife rather giving yourself a deep paper cut but which one actually smarts worse, and nags the mind-body connection most? A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation (87/100)

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Osmose Productions
RELEASE DATE:March 25th, 2022

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