By Ivan Gossage
As any purveyor of the more esoteric and spiritualist realms of Black Metal knows well, there is no shortage of metaphor within the genre. Nevertheless, one can’t help but raise an eyebrow when presented with an offering which has not simply utilized metaphorical devices in artistic expression but has, in fact, used artistic expression to layer on additional metaphoric complexity atop a pre-existing body of figurative work. Case in point: new Czech black metal force SOMNIATE with their new album entitled The Meyrinkian Slumber.
Comprised of members from existing acts HEAVING EARTH, BRUTALLY DECEASED, SÓL, ET MORIEMUR, MALLEPHYR, FEEBLE MINDED and picked up by the mortality-destroying Lavadome Productions, SOMNIATE have harnessed their debut around a pillar of Austrian literature: The Golem by Gustav Meyrink (1868-1932), who is generally thought of as the HP Lovecraft of the German language. Meyrink was heavily immersed in arcane arts and esoterica (including being a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn) and struggled against suicidal impulses, while The Golem is a hallucinatory and obscure tale about a man who struggles for transcendence against memory, psychosis and dissociation within the morbid, evil and suffering ghettos of Prague in the early 1900’s. A “golem” from Hebrew lore is an entity which is shapeless, unformed, unfinished and soulless; and some analyses suggest that the golem of Meyrink’s story is the essence of Prague itself. All of these symbolic layers provide the scaffolding upon which SOMNIATE builds the conceptual and sonic qualities of The Meyrinkian Slumber.
‘The Sleepless Stone’ finds the protagonist and the listener on the precipice of an abyss, “a dweller in between worlds, not asleep nor awake,” as the initial clamoring tones and somewhat unhinged riffs of the guitar (comparable at times to the likes of FUNERAL MIST, VI, and FIDES INVERSA) emit waves of apprehension, shortly followed by bursts of tightly woven percussion and varied vocalizations. We even get a clear grasp on the warmth of the bass during the reprieve following a brief solo about midway through the song. Nearing the end however, resistance is exhausted and the narrator plunges headlong towards darkness, whether madness or mysticism (“I voluntarily give up all resistance… there is no escape from the voice”). The track blasts forward, unrestrained, before fading into a surprisingly cinematic outro; beautiful until it suddenly takes on a dread-inducing tone.
‘Rapheim’ starts off with an undeniably infectious groove as the remnant ambience of the previous track recedes and menacing guitars swirl around, giving us a chance to notice the details of the drums. It is uncanny how closely they resemble the tight, tympanic pop of the mighty AOSOTH (though perhaps with more clarity), but it is not surprising, considering that The Meyrinkian Slumber was mixed and mastered by BST (AOSOTH, ORDER OF APOLLYON, VI, etc.). Much like the aforementioned outro, this groove remains intact for a bit as other instruments ensue and then seamlessly transitions into a disjointed, staggering beat as the vocals arrive, coinciding with lyrical focus on the blackness of Prague: “Darkness has the upper hand, a firm grip on every corner, every street.”
Disorientation increases and the distinction between character and environment begin to blur as we move through cold decay, imprisonment and death with the foreboding ‘In Bone Incorruptible’ and fearsome ‘A Penitentiary Triptych’, rife with writhing guitar and periodic blasting, all the while topped with a compelling vocal delivery. The voice of The Meyrinkian Slumber succeeds in capturing emotional variance of the plot. Somewhat standard but effective black metal roars express the terrible, terrifying and monstrous aspects of the character’s experience, but it is consistently combined with more particular shouting and howling, human style which conveys elements of fear, confusion, despair and anguish; frequently reminding me of DRAUTRAN’s singular masterpiece. The finale is the first single and arguably the best track on the album – ‘Of Fragrance and Light’, which seems, both musically and lyrically… triumphant. Deathier and almost BEHEMOTH-like bombastic instrumentation supports ecstatic transcendence through fire, embrace of insanity, or perhaps both at once; the narrator meeting an end inverted, suspended in the fashion of the figure on the cover art, finally proclaiming “I shall forever reign”.
The Meyrinkian Slumber is slated for full release on June 30th. “Of Fragrance and Light” can be heard on Bandcamp or YouTube. Digital, CD, and LP copies are available for preorder on Bandcamp, and physical copies are also available from Lavadome Productions. Seek these out and experience the metaphorical depth that SOMNIATE is about to unleash.
The Meyrinkian Slumber releases June 30th via Lavadome Productions and Cloven Hoof Brewing and Releasing.
Pre-order The Meyrinkian Slumber on digital, CD and LP from Bandcamp HERE, on CD and LP from the Lavadome Productions webstore HERE or on cassette from the Cloven Hoof Brewing and Releasing webstore HERE.
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