Postnaturalism ex utero. — Using the nearby scenic stretches of Vancouver Island’s Pacific coastline as their muse in exploration of natural cyclic dissolution and the embittering dilemma of indeterminate purpose, these fellowes purport a second rebirth into transcendental thoughtform, an uneasy acceptance of chaotic decay unto closure. Through lunging steps taken along the soft grit of cold, waterlogged sand beaches we seek and discover desirous sloughing renewal alongside Victoria, British Colombia-based black metal trio Liminal Shroud, who’d divine their own dramatist renditions of the ‘self’ actualized by way of the phenomenological perspective on this second full-length, applying the phenomenon of the individual as a microcosm of the natural world. ‘All Virtues Ablaze‘ presents the persistence of natural cyclic forces as seen through eyes which’ve realized the push-and-pull, the greater torsion of human existence, is itself unending yet not torturous by necessity but per the perspective. Through each full listen we witness the side-effects of strictures upon the mind identified, torn apart, and reshaped into greater resolve.
Liminal Shroud formed in 2018, wasting no time in producing their first demo (‘Liminal Shroud‘, 2018) wherein we find their statement very much related to the progressive and melodic spectrum of what most would consider Cascadian black metal, an atmospheric form that’d draw from melodic black metal abstraction and the initial Ulver dynamic alongside emergent ‘post-black metal’ notions. That first demo recording had more to do with the postmodernist form of said dynamic, with long florid melodic arcs variously comparable to those of groups like Velnias, Ash Borer and perhaps Fen. The core of the band’s lyrical themes seemed to revolve around its depressive, mulling introspection conveyed through long strands of sweetly connective guitar work and well, a very hollowed out rehearsal room capture which provides a distraught, rotten space for the performance. Though it is naturally a bit rough in its transitions compared to future releases I’ve found that first demo communicates the slow-burning brilliance of Liminal Shroud‘s indie rock warmed post-black metal influenced compositions already manifesting sophisticated, if not a bit run-on statements. There is no headroom left in this form of black metal to justify mediocrity, the standards are ridiculously high, and in this sense Liminal Shroud hadn’t (and still haven’t) faltered in their swaying towards above-average songcraft and emotionally evocative works.
When Liminal Shroud‘s debut full-length (‘Through the False Narrows‘, 2020) hit me by way of the venerable Hypnotic Dirge Records I remember feeling an intense sensation of regret for not having picked it up earlier and giving it a deeper review, though I think what I’d said in my short review was a complete enough touch upon their helipad: “The sub-genre [space] that Liminal Shroud are touching upon here [typically] tends to achieve early substance that blusters into mundanity, rushed ideas and incomplete pieces, whereas ‘Through the False Narrows’ presents a complete (slightly rambling) statement from start to finish with effective visualization throughout.” wherein I’d wanted to emphasize that a break from the mold was not only imminent but they’d clearly been chipping at the facade of atmospheric black metal deeply throughout that debut. With ‘All Virtues Ablaze‘ they achieve a laudable self-actualization which should feel complete to anyone who’d become a fan when their debut landed. If it’ll be your starting point with their work the experience easily fulfills an incredibly high standard of curation and performance here, in the future, and even in hindsight.
An appreciably professional result. — What does any of that mean in practical terms, “you absolute esoteric clod“, you ask? To start ‘All Virtues Ablaze‘ best presents Liminal Shroud‘s themes of introspection, actualization, and the inevitable transformation that comes from the ‘self’ when examined of its purpose and perceptions, not only for its lyrics but a strongest yet render and technical performances to date. These improvements in fidelity and precision go hand in hand in the sense that bolstered production values must’ve revealed the need for moderate decentralization, wherein the previous recordings from the band relied heavily upon the melodic voice of guitarist/vocalist Aiden Crossley as the pipeline for directive, whereas now the key to the gate beyond lies within more pronounced roles for the rhythm section. It’d be awkward to suggest the drum performances of Drew Davidson have “stepped up” as if it were an athletic sportif for the sake of creating something beauteous and enduring but, there’ll be no reasonable reduction of the sharpened varietal reach of rhythms herein, not far from the spectrum of emotive aggression Falls of Rauros gave us earlier this year (see also: Svneatr). The bass performances are not lacking either, though they are largely supportive of the general rhythmic backbone per some remnants of sub-genre inflection there are flourishes at key points of each song which remind us that there is a thinking, breathing personage behind the instrument. One of the more emotionally driven post-black adjacent pieces on the full listen, “Mists Along Florencia”, showcases each of the three musicians sporting these increasingly dynamic roles to great effect, though of course Crossley is admittedly still the leading voice at large.
“Hypoxic” will be the piece to draw many folks in upon first listen thanks to the swerving pull of its main riff eventually throttling into an Ulcerate-esque refrain. Though it is just one piece of an rhythmic arc which whirls in and out of view several times throughout this ~eight minute piece it manages to implant the experience with a sense of drastic fluidic motion, an abruptness which is only emphasized by the floatier tremolo-picked whirring of chords and general melodic black metal traipse of the opener. It is a fine enough mix of post-black metal modernity, oaken regional affect, and melancholic darkness that it to avoid a cloying or trite experience to open the gates with. Instead of returning to this particular rhythmic hot spot on the full listen the remaining three songs which make up ‘All Virtues Ablaze‘ present an extended, elliptical arc in their action with “Mists Along Florencia” being the insight gained, and the two-part “Transmigration” representing the process of metempsychosis within the entirety of Side B.
If you’ve no interest in the indie/post-rock influenced spectrum of black metal adjacent music there is some possibility that “Mists Along Florencia” might present too much of an uplifting tonality, a sentimental post-black flush of negative energy which is inarguably the most accessible piece on the full listen despite its 10+ minute length. I’d found its interstitial setting was ultimately vital, if not distracting from the tumult and aggression found on “Hypoxic” and a decent foreshadowing of the more blended dynamics of “Transmigration” parts I and II. At the very least I’d warn some listeners expecting a bit of a brutal, dissonant or technical edge to this record that any hints of that are mostly relegated to the opener — a proper the portal crossed into ego-death. “Transmigration I – Pelagic Voids” is the cycle clipped and quashed into the ellipse of a restructured mind, or, the peak action of the full listen which kicks back into a heavier socked-at pace and treacly melodic blackened rhythms though we don’t at all find a point of harshened or aggressive counterpoint to the contemplative, enlightened tone of the piece as it floats on in thought before returning to a harder hit percussive send-off. “Transmigration II – The Cleansing Ash” does reprise some of the more involved rhythmic scourge of “Hypoxic” but we’ve clearly moved on from that point, now presenting the point of culmination and a proper grand finale. Needless to say the album will be a ride but one that balances modernist melodicism with moderate aggression and some obsession with ephemeral, tragedian tones that retain their willful nihilistic qualities just enough to stick in mind.
Longform pieces, or, extended movements which move freely in their parallax of narrative and demonstrative moments are the exact right medium for the ideas which Liminal Shroud are touching upon here. Their metaphysical dramatism and its intended resolve into personal meaning is granted an appropriately profound voicing herein. That said, I did find myself wanting more of their more angular, aggressive rhythmic treatments if only for the sake of that side of the band being their most signature bent upon the modern black metal idyll. What’d helped push ‘All Virtues Ablaze‘ up a few pegs higher in mind from my point of view would ultimately boil down to the pleasure of listening, the sweetly dynamic render of the music that’d so well matched the deeply sentimental wound-unto-repair that it seems to represent. At the very least these folks have made a remarkable leap forth with their craft without losing some relevant precedence found in previous works, it represents a natural revelation achieved through some manner of real experiences. Beyond the obvious strengths of artistic curation, production values, personalized style, and considerable replay value I’d returned to this one all the more because it’d goaded me into more than simply asking (or, marveling within) questions of an unnatural existence as the world continues to shrink and burn around me but, also to go on seeking some sort of answer that’d make irrefutable sense of it all. A very high recommendation.
|TITLE:||All Virtues Ablaze|
|RELEASE DATE:||August 5th, 2022|
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