Mourning at the mouth of the great grey lake. Staring into the abyss in search of the everlasting resonance of nature as praxis for death-warding, offering one’s countenance or death worship dependent on the immortal mysteries they uphold. Sorrowful delve within these irrepressibly turbid, churning eutrophic bodies promises to enrich and enrobe as French black metal quartet Caïnan Dawn ease to express a most earnest, spiritual course on their fourth full-length album. ‘Lagu‘ charms before it stuns, tugs at the reigns of yearning and grief well before it lands a punch, if at all, yet it will serve as beacon and catharses for the willfully entranced ears it manages to catch. Though it will appear as a distraught soul in descent and offer little of the punishing dementia of orthodoxy expected these admirably bold fellowes have not meandered into complacency, the absolute depth of experience here will reveal itself within subtlety and patiently meted revelation.

Caïnan Dawn formed circa ~2003 in an Alpine pocket of civilization in southeast France with a fairly standard, aggressive form of black metal in hand. Their first recordings, starting with a professional demo (‘In Darkness I Reign‘, 2007) appear to have been largely spearheaded by vocalist/guitarist Heruforod who would expand the line-up with members of Nehëmah, Himinbjorg and his 2011 formed pagan metal band Allobrogia over the next few years. Their original style, better fleshed-out and entirely professional on their debut (‘Nibiru‘, 2011) was notable for its emphasis on atmospheric guitar work and impressive threading from piece to piece by eerie sound collage, a style most cursorial journalists would lump in with the better known French black metal groups at the time. The major note to take up front with this band is that they’d made quite a strong conceptual leap when their first album hit and the bar as high from the get-go. They’d soon release the still exciting obsidian pulse of ‘thAVMIAL‘ (2014), side-stepping the atmospheric mystique of their debut for a louder “orthodox”-esque sound which still reads as imposing today. Their fandom had generally accrued surrounding those first two full-length releases and as such, many folks find those to be their defining momentum, yet as we’ll see with ‘Lagu‘, things change.

You’ll understand why Caïnan Dawn‘ve variously included coldwave and ‘meditative metal’ into their self-descriptors as you push through their discography but, yeah not in such a pronounced way ’til ‘Lagu‘. Their moody, spiritual interjections on past releases do stand out even on the most casual listen though it’d be fair to say that those were peripheral items, interludes and connective touches to adorn the increasingly violent black metal pieces that’d garnered quite a bit of praise over the years. By the time the inspired roar of ‘FOHAT‘ (2017) landed it had defined the band’s progression at the time in balance of refined, moderne French black metal with a dark noise vein bleeding through. Not exactly Belenos nor Blut Aus Nord in terms of style and signature but imaginative and stoic in similar ways. ‘Lagu‘ arrives to finish the thought and ends up rethinking everything, fully leaning into those atmospheric and melodic musical ideas and in the process of doing so the band begins to go their own way entirely, again. For the knowledgeable fan it’ll feel like the reset button has been pressed without remorse, the typical rhythmic bursts of post-millennium black metal now ebbing away to make room for something less tribally associated yet the personality of the songwriters still persists within a more subtle framework and the black metal tag still very much applies. For the uninitiated it will be an experience which demands patience, a closely cupped ear for nuance and distraught ‘epic’ melodicism.

A spear through the chest of Polybotes. — It takes about eight minutes, an introductory breezeway and a dimly lit textural piece, to set the tone and warm the engines on the wave generator which ‘Lagu‘ sports. These are apprehensive yet enlightened motions, knowing wafts of dream-like guitar textures which begin their extensive thread on “Myctophidae” (named for a genus of bioluminescent ‘lantern’ fish) and cast the ear into a dispersed mood, pensive and whole-heartedly searching for some elusive satiation. We will find this vague melodic motif and guitar sound threaded in later pieces on the album, such as “Atlantis”, but the loudly beating heart of the full listen is relatively quick to expose itself as the blustering, soulful dramatism of “Y’ha-Nthlei” (named for the undersea city from The Shadow over Innsmouth) arrives in motion and stirs things up in terms of festooning the ‘epic’ black metal guitar thread upheld by the best pieces on this record and restoring the folkish, passionate melodic character found in all Caïnan Dawn releases, this being an outsized yet carefully traced version. Fans of depressive dark metal and the more active yet sentimental side of modern atmospheric black metal will find a closely clustered yet finely detailed piece to immerse within, an remarkably stated sturm und drang which acts as the propulsion ‘Lagu‘ needs to press deeper into this floater-chasing wilderness of their own making.

From that point on the turbulent beauty of the record stretches its limbs and pours itself out in uncanny, seeming unending flow of bittersweet yet stoically served melodic and atmospheric black metal, tuned to longer-form shoegazer phrasing which drone on (hence the use of the term “epic”) and hang thick in the air. “Okeanos” continues the thread nicely, incorporating clean vocals and somewhat buried synths into its distempered rasps and fleet footed rhythms which mill in one great voluptuous mass. The best parts of the album find us stepping between these dreary, run-on bouts of yearning and the more fulminant, or, emergent pieces which tends to leave the most memorable parts of the album set in the transitions between songs. The exception to this rule is perhaps the aforementioned “Atlantis” for the sake of it presenting its own elaborate middle arc and profound exit, a shape echoed in the pairing of “Septima” and “Apnea” which collectively serve what I’d consider their own major arc of interest on this somewhat protracted ~56 minute album.

φαίνω — When the gothic rock/darkwave tinged guitar work finally begins to integrate more heavily (such as on closer “Profundum”) it doesn’t necessarily disappoint in terms of the admixture being thin when most exposed but it does speak to Caïnan Dawn not having gotten overly ambitious with that influence, keeping it as a piece of signature woven more heavily throughout this change in style but never changing their songwriting locus to full-bore goth trappings or stark attempts at deathrock. There is no obvious single or big hook that comes from these events, though. In truth all of the songs herein arrive as waves within the greater foam of it all, each bearing their own important memorable markers and yet blurring together on initial listens. As familiarity grew through repeated listening so did these various dramatic movements read as interlocking pieces in a droning thought, wherein only a few stood out as -songs- which shined on their own when removed from the gusting of the full album experience. This would end up being the right balance of new thought, established personae, and a certain knack well highlighted in complex yet motion-rich arrangements, earning my fealty to the experience served by ‘Lagu‘ quickly and quietly.

Give it time and it will provide what you need, but perhaps little of what you’d expected going in. Though I am still a bit lost whenever navigating the lush yet distraught pooling of Caïnan Dawn‘s paradigm shifting fourth full-length it is a natural symptom of a work meant to evoke first, to lead with atmosphere and seal the act with finely detailed experience. ‘Lagu‘ is choicely immersive in the sense that it leaves me riddled with the sensation that I should keep wandering down its corridors, pushed along by their flowing movements and downtrodden, intimate register after some unknowable flotsam ahead. It’ll be easy to overlook for some folks due to the subtle yarn it tows the ear along with but, the ratio of thinking and feeling on display is prime black metal ‘modernity’ for my taste, or, at the very least a successfully bold step taken into the unknown for these folks. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (84/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Osmose Productions
RELEASE DATE:September 30th, 2022

Help Support Grizzly Butts’ goals with a donation:

Please consider donating directly to site costs and project funding using PayPal.